27 SES 09 C, Cultural Traditions in Teaching and Learning
Presented empirical research presents representation of didactic games in social studies classes in Slovene primary schools. In Slovenia social studies is a class that students encounter in the 4th and 5th grades of primary school. In social studies students develop understanding of their social, cultural and natural environment in time and space; awareness of the interaction, the interdependence of cultural, social, natural processes and phenomena and the importance of sustainable development; social, communication and research skills and abilities that besides knowledge enable them to effectively perform in the environment; attitudes and values in the context of environmental, civic and patriotic education and education for democracy and human rights; cognitive, emotional and social abilities, and skills and strategies of lifelong learning. National curriculum for social studies is based on constructivist theory of learning and teaching. The didactic recommendations for the teaching of the subject social studies suggest that teachers should derive from students’ prior knowledge, skills and interests, and take into account their individual potentials when they plan lessons (Budnar et al., 2011). As children grow and develop, concepts of how to acquire and organise information in their minds become more complex. The methods, forms and didactic strategies that are to be used in social studies lessons must be suitably combined with regard to the students’ ages, characteristics, goals of the lessons and circumstances (Maxim, 2010; Naude, Bergh & Kruger, 2014). Among an array of didactic strategies teachers can choose from, a recommended didactic strategy for teaching social studies, as written in National Curriculum, is experiential learning (Budnar et al., 2011). Experiential learning is a teaching and learning strategy that attempts to integrate the emotional and sensory experience of the students and their thinking into a whole (Marentič Požarnik, 2003). A key element of experiential learning is the student being personally involved in this pedagogical approach (Wurdinger & Carlson, 2010). The importance of the active involvement of children in the learning process is emphasised by several studies, namely by the following authors: Pianta, Laparo & Hamre (2006); Leavers (2005) and the study NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2003, 2005) (as in Tankersley et al., 2013). In our study we are focusing on one of possible methods supporting experiential learning. Tomič (1997) considers didactic game to be one of the methods of experiential leaning. There were already researches that proved that children learn best through games. The use of games in teaching gives positive results as the studies already performed in this area have shown – Bognar (1987), Roskos & Christie (2000), Ginsburg (2007), Cenčič et al (2008), Miller & Almon (2009) and Juriševič (2012). Their findings were among other that game positively supports children’s social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills and is essential to a child’s overall healthy development. The purpose of the study was to examine representation and frequency of use of didactic games in social studies. We were also interested in popularity of didactic games among students.
The study was based on a descriptive and non-experimental method of empirical research. We included a random sample of 177 Slovenian primary school teachers teaching social studies in the fourth or fifth grades in the academic year 2016/2017 and a random sample of 290 students enrolled in the fourth or fifth grade in the same school year. Research sample consist of teachers and students from all Slovenian regions. The number of teachers selected for the convenience sample, was 56. We observed 27 social studies lessons in the fourth grade and 29 social studies lessons in the fifth grade. Data for all variables were collected using two questionnaires and observation of social studies lessons. Data was also obtained from class observation. For this purpose, we assembled an observation protocol. The data was acquired in March 2017 and partially in the first week of April 2017. The data obtained from the questionnaire were analysed using the SPSS (version 21) statistics programme. For data processing, we used basic descriptive statistics, frequency distribution, and a non-parametrical Chi-Square test for independence. During the analysis, we also checked for statistically relevant differences between participating teachers with regard to teachers’ working age, teachers’ professional title, the grade teachers are teaching, the teaching environment (urban or rural primary school), and the teachers’ attitudes towards teaching social studies. We used a non-parametric Mann–Whitney test to determine the differences between the two groups of teachers – teachers in fourth and teachers in fifth grades, as well as teachers working in the city and teachers working in the countryside – and a Kruskal–Wallis test to determine the differences between groups of teachers regarding their professional title and working years, since nonparametric tests have some distinct advantages. Outcomes that are ordinal, ranked, subject to outliers or measured imprecisely are difficult to analyze with parametric methods without making major assumptions about their distributions as well as decisions about coding some values.The difference between the groups was considered statistically significant if the degree of risk for the validity of the null hypothesis was less than 5% (p 0.05). The level at which the null hypothesis is rejected is usually set as 5 or fewer times out of 100. The 0.05 probability level is acceptable as a reasonable choice in most social studies research nowadays (Cramer&Howitt, 2004; Field, 2013).
Results showed that teachers rarely use didactic games in teaching social studies. Depending on the type of a game, the most commonly used one is a role-playing game. A role-playing game is in the curriculum suggested as a didactic recommendation for teaching social studies in the fourth and fifth grade of primary school (Budnar et al., 2011). In participating teachers’ opinion students like playing games in social studies. Also the results of research among students confirmed that students like learning with games and in their opinion games are not played often enough in social studies. Students believe that by using games in social studies they gain new knowledge. To confirm if students gain new knowledge by using didactic game, almost all participating teachers check whether students have achieved pre-set educational goals, after the didactic game has ended. When students are comfortable and have fun at the same time, they tend to either learn or strengthen their knowledge (Petsche, 2011). When observing 56 lessons of social studies, we perceived use of didactic games only in 6 lessons, which represents 11% of all observed lessons. All of the games were made by teachers. The literature review, the answers of the teachers and the lesson observations, exposed the problem of insufficient range of ready-to-use or ready-made games designed for the subject social studies. Most teachers answered that they would like to be further trained in using games for teaching social studies. Professional education and training of teachers should reflect the needs of the employed staff, and it has to be, therefore, adjusted to the circumstances in practice. Our research can assist in the planning of lessons in social studies and training courses for teachers and prospective teachers of the subject social studies in primary school.
Bognar, L. (1987). Igra pri pouku na začetku šolanja [Game at the beginning of school education]. Ljubljana: DZS. Budnar, M., Kerin, M., Umek, M., Raztresen, M. & Mirt, G. (2011). Učni načrt. Program osnovna šola. Družba. [Primary school curriculum for social studies]. Ljubljana: Ministrstvo za šolstvo in šport, Zavod RS za šolstvo. Cenčič, M, Cotič, M., & Medved Udovič, V. (2008). Pouk v družbi znanja. In V. Medved Udovič, M. Cotič, & M. Cenčič (Eds.), Sodobne strategije učenja in poučevanja [Modern didactic teaching and learning strategies] (p. 283-308). Koper: Pedagoška fakulteta. Cramer, D., & Howitt, D. L. (2004). The SAGE dictionary of statistics: A practical resource for students in social sciences. London: SAGE. Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.). London: SAGE. Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191. Juriševič, M. (2012). Motiviranje učencev v šoli [Students’ motivation at school]. Ljubljana: Pedagoška fakulteta. Marentič-Požarnik, B. (2003). Psihologija učenja in pouka [Psychology of learning in teaching]. Ljubljana: DZS. Maxim, G. (2010). Dynamic social studies for constructivist classrooms. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Miller, E., & Almon, J. (2009). Crisis in the kindergarten: Why children need to play in school. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood. Naude, L., Bergh, T., & Kruger, I. (2014). 'Learning to like learning': an appreciative inquiry into emotions in education. Social Psychology of Education, 17(2), 211-228. Petsche, J. (2011). Engage and excite students with educational games. Knowledge Quest, 40(1), 42-44. Roskos, K. A., & Christie, J. F. (Eds.). (2000). Play and literacy in early childhood: Research from multiple perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Tankersley, D., Brajković, S., Handžar, S., Rimkiene, R., Sabaliauskiene, R., Trikiž, Z., Vonta, T. (2013). Od teorije k praksi. In Režek, M. (Ed.), Putting knowledge into practice: A guidebook for Educators of ISSA’a Principles of Quality Pedagogy. Ljubljana: Pedagoški Inštitut. Tomić, A. (1997). Izbrana poglavja iz didaktike [Selected topics from didactics]. Ljubljana: Center za pedadoško izobraževanje Filozofske fakultete. Wurdinger, S. D., & Carlson, J. A. (2009). Teaching for experiential learning: Five approaches that work. Lanham, MD: R&L Education.
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