Narrowing the Achievement Gap in Second-Grade Social Studies and Content Area Literacy: The Promise of a Project-Based Approach

Halvorsen, Anne-Lise; Duke, Nell K.; Brugar, Kristy A.; Block, Meghan K.; Strachan, Stephanie L.; Berka, Meghan B.; Brown, Jason M.
July 2012
Theory & Research in Social Education;2012, Vol. 40 Issue 3, p198
Academic Journal
This study addresses the question: Do second-grade students from low- socioeconomic-status (SES) schools taught with an iteratively designed project-based approach to social studies and content literacy instruction: (a) make statistically significant gains on standards-based social studies and content area literacy assessments, and (b) reach a benchmark on these assessments set by a group of students from high-SES schools? If so, what did the project-based approach entail? Students from 4 classrooms in low-SES schools were assessed before and after experiencing 2 project-based units focused on standards in economics; civics and government; public discourse, decision making, and citizen involvement; and content area literacy. Students from 2 high-SES schools were also assessed, following a year of business-as-usual social studies and content literacy instruction, to establish a benchmark we hoped low-SES students could attain. Results show that low-SES students made statistically significant gains in social studies and content literacy and, at post-test, showed no statistically significant differences from the students in the high-SES schools: Following instruction, there was no SES achievement gap on these assessments. The authors describe the project-based units and strategies that the teachers used to implement these plans, and discuss implications of the study for future research and practice.


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