This month, as part of the review of the History and Social Studies curriculum across Canada, Profs. Lindsay Gibson and Carla Peck from the University of Alberta have reviewed the Alberta’s Social Studies curriculum to situate the current revisions within a larger context.
Current Curriculum Context
Based in “progressive” child-centered, inquiry-based curriculum reform that began in the mid-1930s, Alberta is the only province that requires students to take issues-centred, interdisciplinary Social Studies courses through to the end of high school. The current Alberta K-12 Social Studies Curriculum was introduced in stages from 2005-2009, and history is one of six interrelated “strands” that reflect the nature of social studies as an interdisciplinary subject. Alberta also has a mandatory social studies diploma exam in Grade 12 that is worth 30% of students’ final mark, and mandatory social studies Provincial Achievements Tests in grades 6 and 9.
Canadian history topics are introduced thematically in different grades throughout the K-12 curriculum, which has led to critiques of the curriculum for over-privileging thematic approaches and disregarding chronology. For example, in grade 2 students learn about three Canadian communities: Iqaluit, Meteghan, and Saskatoon, and one of the foci are the changes in those communities over time. In grade 4 students learn about the land, histories, and stories of Alberta, and in grade 5 students learn about the land, histories, and stories of Canada, including an examining Canadian identity. In grade 6 students focus on historical models of democracy including the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and in grade 7 the curriculum focuses on the origins, histories and movement of people both before and after Confederation. Grade 9 includes a few isolated topics in Canadian history including the Indian Act and treaties 6, 7, and 8. The three compulsory senior high school courses are organized around multidisciplinary investigations of globalization in Grade 10, nationalism in grade 11, and ideology in grade 12. Canadian history topics are interspersed in these curricula, but not in any systematic or comprehensive way.
Given that the Alberta social studies curriculum was written and implemented while Peter Seixas was still conceptualizing the initial framework of historical thinking and the Historical Thinking Project was still in its nascent stage, the articulation of historical thinking in the Alberta K-12 curriculum is underdeveloped. Historical thinking is included as one of six “dimensions of thinking” (critical thinking, creative thinking, historical thinking, geographic thinking, decision making and problem solving, and metacognition) that assist students in making connections to prior knowledge, assimilate new information, and apply learning to new contexts. Although historical thinking is included in the curriculum at each grade level, historical thinking concepts are not specifically named and the concepts are not coherently organized to increase in complexity throughout the K-12 curriculum.
The “New” Curriculum Continue reading