- Instructional time for social studies in elementary classrooms has decreased
since the passage of Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind, with content contracted to align with reading goals. Consequently, opportunities for preservice teachers to observe and teach social studies lessons have diminished. This qualitative multiple case study examines the practices that preservice teachers develop and apply in making decisions concerning social studies curriculum. Three elementary level preservice teachers who had, or were earning, another degree in addition to their degree in education were participants in the study. The study offers insights into three research questions: 1) How do preservice elementary teachers construct an understanding of the teachings of social studies? 2) What knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes do preservice teachers draw upon as they make decisions about social studies
teaching? and 3) How do preservice teachers reflect upon and revise their own
teaching of social studies? Data from student-produced texts, interviews, classroom observations, a focus group, and researcher memos were analyzed using an inductive approach drawing on Charmaz's Constructing Grounded Theory (2010) and situational analysis (Clarke,2005). Five factors intersected for each participant in constructing their understandings of social studies instruction: academic background, learning preferences, beliefs and attitudes regarding education, a conception of the teacher's role, and aspects of college coursework in education. The participants' academic background, knowledge of students' prior learning, content standards, curriculum emphasis at school sites, and beliefs about purposes for social studies shaped their
decisions about social studies instruction. Each participant reflected on technical aspects of lessons primarily using descriptive language. Reflection considering multiple perspectives and the social and historical contexts for lessons occurred when the participants had academic backgrounds related to social studies fields, or when there were multiple lessons related around a topic. In these cases, reflections demonstrated greater depth and complexity. Participants' opportunities to revise lessons varied. In general, the findings suggest that when background knowledge was related to social studies fields, preservice teachers found alternative ways to approach subject matter and multiple occasions to integrate social studies. This study has implications for the coursework and practicum components of preservice teacher education.