The CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework--Social Studies: Integrating Reading and Writing
The Social Studies: Integrating Reading & Writing Curriculum Framework incorporates U.S. history, basic economics and civics concepts, and geography, using the U.S. timeline as an organizing principle, or “backbone.” For each time period in U.S. history, certain economic and civics concepts are taught, as they fit naturally in that era. The lessons are also aimed at helping students develop skill in reading a range of genres, including maps, graphs, expository text, memoir, and poetry as well as writing personal, persuasive and informative essays. One additional thread is periodic mini-lessons to help students make connections between the skills and knowledge they are acquiring in the classroom, and future career choices.
This resource is recommended with caution, because of the limited research-base for the pracrices that are recommended. It can be a useful tool for a beginning adult educator who needs guidance on how to structure lessons and specific skill and content learning activities, it is also a good source of information on the content being taught (e.g., westward expansion).
Specifc examples include the following:
Section 2, the Overview, oddly, is written in the first person although the author is never identified. It recommends several specific practices based on the author's experience/perspective. The practices primarily reflect an explicit instruction approach, which is highly appropriate for adult basic education, however no supporting sources our explanations for this are provided. So it is not clear to the reader that these are evidence-based practices. Also, the recommended practices are just a few of many practices that could be appropriate for adult learners, so why have these particualr ones been included? Without information on the skill levels and other qualities of the learners with whom the author found these effective it will be hard for an adult educator to know if they are a good match for her/his adult learners.
The six Core Principles and Additional Considerations are also written in a narrative style that reflects direct experiences in adult education (this time not written in the first person). Again, the practices recommended and the examples provided are sound, but the support for them is primarily anecdotal, with rare citation of a research or other source. Also, there is no explanation for how the six Principles were developed. Again, these seem to be good suggestions but they are not fully explained and the evidence-base for them is missing; some of the choices seem almost arbitrary, as though all adult learners need the same things.
Curriculum Maps are particularly useful for helping educators organize the content to be covered across lessons.
Unit Descriptions are narratives that also use a lot of first person and suggest practices based on the author's experiences and observations, with some citations of additional resources. They richly describe the author's instructional practices and uses of the content featured but do little to help other adult educators think critically about how they could adapt the unit lessons.
In the Lesson Plans most of the stated objectives are actually activities that will be conducted during the lesson or statemeents of topics to be addressed, they are not outcomes-based.
The rigor of the content can also be questioned, for example, the definition of "economics" presented at the start of Lesson 4 is very weak and only minimally reflects the concepts of economics that are addressed within just this lesson.
The materials included in this resource provide an excellent model for developing similar integrated content in other HSE topics or in develiping curricula for occupational preparation. The lesson plans are detailed, easy to follow, and helpful to any instructor preparing adults to succeed in college or the workplace. They include a variety of approaches to engage a variety of learners. The resource will provide instructors with a well-developed tool that promises to prepare adults to pass the Social Studies section of the HSE exam, while reinforcing their reading and writing skills.