Alberta teachers' perceptions on including multiple perspectives in elementary Social Studies: A qualitative case study

  • Author / Creator
    Berg, Andrea L
  • The combination of a rich history of multiculturalism with the current increases in Aboriginal, Francophone and immigrant populations has led to more cultural diversity than ever in Alberta classrooms. As an attempt to promote the development of active and responsible citizens in a democratic and pluralistic society, the Kindergarten to Grade 12 Social Studies Alberta Program of Studies requires that multiple perspectives be included. Although pedagogical strategies have be employed to authentically include multiple perspectives in social studies, several obstacles have been cited as impeding their effective implementation, including a lack of time, funding, resources and technology; an overburdened curriculum; biases and racism and teacher reluctance. Using a social constructivist epistemology, this qualitative case study explores the ways teachers approach including multiple perspectives and how they negotiate the barriers to doing so. The study is informed by three related theoretical frameworks drawn from reconceptualist curriculum theories, critical multiculturalism, and recent studies of teacher identity development. Two sets of interviews and a focus group were conducted with Grades 3 to 7 teachers from a small city in Alberta, Canada. The purpose of the interviews was to understand teachers’ contexts and to map their understandings of multiple perspectives, whereas the focus group aimed to uncover teachers’ pedagogy and rationale for including multiple perspectives. The following themes were revealed: teachers have differential understandings of multiple perspectives, teachers’ personal and professional experiences shape their understandings of multiple perspectives, teachers require a multitude of supports to meet the challenges of including multiple perspectives, students play a critical role in determining how teachers include multiple perspectives, and teachers use a variety of strategies to include multiple perspectives. Results indicate that teachers demonstrate a range in their approaches to including multiple perspectives based on their unique personal and professional experiences. Teachers’ individual levels of comfort with diversity determines their approach to teaching multiple perspectives and the complexity of strategies employed. Examples of activities used by teachers to include multiple perspectives is included. Teachers’ response to varying student demographics and levels of readiness also impact their inclusion of multiple perspectives. Findings from this study suggest tiered and teacher-directed experiential pre-service teacher education and professional development opportunities that encourage teachers to reflect on the development of their identity is critical to supporting the inclusion of multiple perspectives. Policy development should be specific and supportive of diversity and inclusion and curriculum should be designed to be student- centred and flexible of local contexts. As well, student voice should be considered and authentically included in Social Studies to create a program that is responsive to student needs and experiences.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.