GHS Helps Teachers Meet Changing Social Studies Standards

Changes are coming to social studies education in Georgia! In addition to the newly revised Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE), teachers will also notice an increased emphasis on inquiry learning in the Social Studies classroom. GHS is excited to help teachers meet the challenges that come with changing standards and new practices in the teaching profession.

About the New GSE Standards

The State Board of Education approved the Georgia Standards of Excellence for Social Studies in part to simplify the content teachers were required to teach under the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). You can see the exact changes by viewing the GPS to GSE Crosswalk PDF provided by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE).

The standards outline the historical understandings, geographic understandings, government/civic understandings, and economic understandings teachers are expected to cover during the school year. There are also skills-based standards for each grade level that focus on reading, writing, and critical thinking. The “map and globe skills” and “information processing skills” were incorporated into the standards before the Common Core movement. The “reading standards for literacy in History/Social Studies (RHSS)” and “writing standards for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects (WHST)” are direct legacies of Common Core. You can find all the standards for Social Studies by visiting the GaDOE website

New standards also mean new assessments.In 2016, Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 364. Among other things, the law eliminated the Georgia Milestones End of Grade (EOG) assessments in science and social studies for 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th grades. In the 2017-2018 school year, students in 5th and 8th grades will be given End of Grade (EOG) assessments based on the new GSE for science and social studies. High school students will take End of Course (EOC) Milestones assessments in US History and Economics.  You can read more about the Georgia Milestones Assessment System on the GaDOE website.

How the Changes will Impact Teachers

In some cases, teachers will have completely new standards, but most will only see minor changes. Elementary school teachers will notice the greatest change to the historical content they are expected to teach. The biggest changes have more to do with pedagogy than content. All social studies teachers will be encouraged to adopt an inquiry model of teaching and learning in their classrooms.  In essence, inquiry-based learning uses questions to spark student curiosity and provides tasks that help students develop seek answers to those questions.

For example, a teacher may start a unit on the World War I by asking, “Was Entering WWI a Smart Choice for the United States.” Next, the teacher would provide a series of experiences and tasks to help students gather information to give an educated answer to the question. Often, these tasks include reading and analyzing primary source materials from libraries and archives like the Georgia Historical Society. For more examples, you can visit the C3 Teachers Inquiry Design Model website. GaDOE will also be releasing pre-made inquiry units called Social Studies Labs.

How GHS Plans to Help Teachers met the new GSE

Over the summer, GHS will be working hard to update existing resources and create new educational programs and materials to help teachers succeed in the 2017-2018 school year. This will mean updated teacher guides to our online exhibits and biographical resources. The primary sources and historical content in these digital resources are perfect for developing research tasks as part of inquiry-based units and lessons.

We are also planning an overhaul of our primary source sets for 8th-grade Georgia Studies. These curated primary source sets will help teachers quickly select primary sources that align with GSE and are useful in promoting inquiry-learning. Our Reseach Center is home to millions of primary sources related to Georgia and American history. We will continue to work on digitization projects to make it easier for teachers to download and print those resources for classroom use. Teachers can browse the already thousands of digitized items in our digital image catalog.

We are also working with Bibb County on piloting live, virtual lessons with GHS education and archival staff. These lessons focus specifically on using primary source materials from our collection to ask and answer questions about the past. This project will help GHS move forward in using technology to serve more classrooms across the state. Teachers can also schedule a field trip to the Research Center in Savannah where students will learn about primary sources by engaging directly with artifacts, photographs, manuscripts, and more.

GHS is also dedicated to providing professional development opportunities for teachers. Over the summer we will be releasing videos in a series on the Top Ten Places to Find Digitized Primary Sources for the Classroom. You can already watch the first video on Sophia’s Schoolhouse blog. GHS will also be hosting a workshop at the Okefenokee RESA on September 13th and will be at the Georgia Council for the Social Studies conference and GaETC conference in the fall. Please reach out if you are interested in partnering on additional workshops and professional development opportunities.

Since its founding in 1839, GHS has been dedicated to sharing Georgia and American history through the unique treasures in our archival collection and by making history scholarship more accessible to the public. Over the last 178 years, a lot has changed in the world of education, but our mission has remained the same. No matter the latest trends, standards, or assessments, educators can rely on GHS as a trusted source for teaching Georgia and American history.