Background to the study
Social studies is a subject which is taught at various levels of education in Ghana, It is taught at the junior high school, senior high schools and teacher training colleges as core subjects. Even at the lower basic level of education, that is, the primary school, social studies is taught under environmental studies, now known as citizenship education. All these point to the importance attached to the study of social studies in our schools.
The National Council for Social Studies divides social studies objectives into four categories: knowledge, skills, values, and participation (Barr, 1977). These four categories of the learning of social studies are also addressed in the objectives declared by the Ghana Education Service for both elementary schools and senior high schools (Ghana Education Service, 2007). Each of these categories provide the basis of curriculum development for senior high schools in Ghana. Ghana’s Ministry of Education state that “social studies at the senior high school level is concerned with equipping the students with an integrated body of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help the student develop a broader perspective of Ghana and the world” (Social studies syllabus for senior high schools in Ghana, 2007, p.7). The subject probes the past and provides knowledge for the students to understand his or her society and be able to solve personal and societal problems. The subject has been divided into three sections each of which focus on the environment, government and stability, social and economic development (Ministry of Education, 2007).
Social studies curriculum is based on key concepts such as democracy, justice, rights and responsibilities, identity and diversity. Teachers use topical, political and social issues to bring social studies content to life. These content areas develop in students key citizenship skills needed for research, discussion as well as debate sessions (Bining & Bining, 1952). The social studies curriculumused in senior high schools aimsatdevelopinginstudentstheability to participate intheircommunitiesmeaningfullyand wider societies as informed citizens (Ministry of Education 2007).The purpose of active citizens is to teach students to work together and take practical actions using their knowledge and understanding in social studies to contribute to the better society locally, nationally and globally(Bath, 1983). For example, after learning about human rights, diversity and inequality, students might decide to set up a project to address racism in their school or local community.
Among the many agencies available for social studies education are the family, peer group, mass media, the church and the school (Cleary, 1971). Of all these, the school appears to be the most potent force in the Ghanaian society driving the course of social studies. For instance, because of the newness of democratic living in the Ghanaian system, one cannot guarantee that the various family units can efficiently inset the ideas of our form of democracy in the youth. Similarly, one cannot dispute the fact that most of the youth do not have access to the mass media. The same may apply to the church. On the contrary, almost every youth is expected by law to acquire at least basic education (Constitution of Ghana, 1992). It is for this reason why Cleary, (1971) suggest that schools (senior high schools) are powerful weapon used to ensure that majority of the youth have a taste of social studies education in Ghana.
The past 50 years have witnessed a number of studies that have attempted to understand why students either like or dislike social studies. These studies have tried to identify and measure student’s attitude about social studies and predict what influence their attitudes related to this area of the school curriculum (Corbin, 1994; Curry & Hughes, 1965; Fraser, 1981; Inskeep & Rowland, 1963; McTear & Blaton, 1975; McTear, 1978, 1979).
Through the years, ongoing changes in curriculum design, teaching methodology, and administrative practices may have helped to improve students’ perception of social studies (Shaughnessy & Haladyna, 1985). However, most students still perceive social studies classes as dull, boring, and irrelevant to their lives. If the Social Studies curriculum is to continue to have support from school administrators, politicians, and the general public, it is desirable to have positive student attitudes towards the subject matter. This is important because it is quite possible that negative attitudes toward social studies could ultimately result in a sharp decline in the allocation of resources for this subject area.
Unfortunately, previous research indicates that young students are not positive about social studies and find it irrelevant for future careers (Schug, Todd,Beery, 1982). Historically, when elementary and high school students were surveyed, the most dominant negative perception was that social studies was boring and had little relevance to their lives. Femandez, Massey, and Dombush (1975; 1976) conducted one of the earliest surveys regarding student attitudes towards social studies in the San Francisco Public Schools. They found that students in grades 9 through 12 ranked social studies last in importance when compared to other core subjects such as English and mathematics. The participants described social studies as confusing and having little relationship to their future.
From the above description of social studies education in both Ghana and the world at large, one could attest to the fact that, an exploration into student’s attitudes towards the teaching and learning of social studies will be of great relevance to the development of active citizens. It is against this background that this study sought to examine students’ attitudes towards the teaching and learning of social studies in senior high schools.
Statement of the Problem
The advancement of “liberty and justice for all” as envisioned by our country’s founders requires that, citizens have to acquire knowledge, attitudes and values to guard and endorse the principles of constitutional democracy (constitution of Ghana, 1992). The success of Ghana’s growth and stability relies strongly on its educational system. Social studies is a major part of the school’s curriculum because it explores morals, values and provides students with the ability to understand the values associated with being a good citizen ( Ministry of Education , 2007).
The marginalization of social studies education in schools has been documented repeatedly. For instance, in the United States, Lawson, (2003) surveyed hundred tenth grade students and hundred twelfth grade students in order to determine their attitudes towards the various subject areas. In the study, English, mathematics and reading were ranked ahead of social studies. Participants described social studies as boring and far from anything they could relate to in their life. This situation may result in the poor performance of students in social studies. The researchers suspect that this apparent drift may be the result of ineffective teaching and learning of Social Studies content. This study therefore investigates the attitudes students in senior high School have towards the teaching and learning of Social Studies.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of the study was to investigatetheattitudes of senior high school students towards the teaching and learning of Social Studies in the Cape Coast metropolis. Specifically, the study was guided by the following objectives:
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study.
Significance of the Study
The findings of the study will contribute effectively to impart knowledge in the area of teaching and learning social studies in senior High Schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis and Ghana as a whole, It will help Social Studies teachers to be able to effectively and appropriately impart knowledge to their students because teachers get to know and understand the perception of their students about the subject which provides the opportunity for new knowledge and perceptions
The study will also serve as a basic reference for both teacher and educational stakeholders and other related institutions such that they will be able to solve challenges they may encounter in dealing with issues related to the attitudes of students towards social studies. The findings of this work will not only aid players in education to take informed decisions but it will also make them understand the challenges and processes in research.
Delimitation of the Study
The study wasconducted in the Cape Coast Metropolis.Specifically, it covered the teaching and learning of Social Studies in Senior High Schools. The study was limited to the attitudes of students towards the teaching and learning of social studies. The choice of the study location was based on the fact that, the researchers are familiar with schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis and this will help them obtain reliable information about the research.
Limitations of the Study
Lack of accurate and adequate information from respondents, school authorities unwillingness to allow research to be carried out in their school as well as time constraints are challenges that hinder the smooth execution of the research process in the senior high schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis.
Definition of Terms
Social Studies: Social studies isan integration of social science subjects such as Sociology, History, Geography, Economics and Psychologyfor the purpose of instruction in citizenship education. The main purpose is to train students to become useful citizens in the society and the country as a whole.
Attitudes: Attitude is how individuals behave or respond to a situation or a thing. Due to individual differences, people exhibit different behaviours towards events and circumstances. Attitudes can exert strong influence on behaviour, many powerful forces such social norms and values and specific circumstances can pressure people can act in particular ways.
Teaching and learning: it is the interaction between teachers and learners whereby knowledge is transferred from the teacher to the learners with the aim of changing student’s behavior towards the set goals.
Organization of the Study
The study is organized into five chapters, Chapter one deals with the background to the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, research questions, the significance of the study, delimitation, limitation and definition of terms. Chapter two deals with the review of related literature, it takes into consideration the historical overview of Social Studies, the concept of Teaching and learning, the concept attitude and perception, the concept teaching Social Studies, the methods employed by teachers to enhance effective teaching and learning of social studies, materials for teaching and learning of Social Studies and the varied characteristics of teachers and students. Chapter three presents the research method used by the researchers for the study, these includes research design, population sample and sampling technique, instruments, data collection procedure and presentation and data analysis procedure. Chapter four is concerned with results and discussion of data. Chapter five caters for the summary, conclusionrecommendations based on the findings of the study as well as suggestions for further studies.