An Analysis of Time Prioritization for Social Studies in Elementary School Classrooms

Paul G. Fitchett, Tina L Heafner, Phillip VanFossen


Time is an essential component of instructional decision-making and subject area prioritization.  The greater the amount of instructional time teachers allocate toward a specific subject the greater the content exposure and opportunity to engage learners.  Evidence suggests that social studies receives short shrift in the elementary schools resulting in the undermining of opportunities to learn the subject in meaningful ways.  Using survey data from 2,336 elementary social studies teachers, we examined relationships among the professional attitudes and instructional decision-making of elementary school teachers on reported social studies instructional time.  Results from analyses indicated that teachers who used discipline-specific methods, integrated within English Language Arts, and who reported being satisfied with teaching social studies spent significantly increased time on social studies.  Moreover, teachers who reported more frequent social studies content integration or who reported having a mandated test spent more time on discipline-specific strategies than teachers who did not.  Findings have implications for teacher educators preparing elementary practitioners, school leaders accommodating the field, and policymakers attempting to position social studies within an era of accountability.


social studies; elementary education; instructional strategies; marginalization; opportunity to learn; assessment

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