Narrowing the achievement gap in second-grade social studies and content area literacy: The promise of a project-based approach

Anne Lise Halvorsen, Nell K. Duke, Kristy A. Brugar, Meghan K. Block, Stephanie L. Strachan, Meghan B. Berka, Jason M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study addresses the question: Do second-grade students from lowsocioeconomic- 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-229
Number of pages32
JournalTheory and Research in Social Education
Volume40
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Achievement gap
  • Content area literacy
  • Curricular integration
  • Design experiment
  • Elementary social studies
  • Project-based learning

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