Abstract 5-Volume 7, Number 3, Winter 2012

Higher Order Thinking in Social Studies: An Analysis of Primary Source Document Use

Nancy C. Patterson

Bowling Green State University

Ashley G.  Lucas

Towson University

Michael Kithinji

University of Arkansas Fort Smith



There is a tacit understanding among social studies teachers and educators that incorporating primary source documents in planning and teaching is desirable for many reasons, most prominent among them the ways in which it challenges students to think at higher levels.  This study is a descriptive study of public school teachers’ uses of primary source documents in social studies planning, in which we review lesson activities of various grade level teachers to evaluate their use of primary documents for higher order cognitive purposes. Given the salient theme of critical thinking in the literature, we established a baseline continuum of uses that served as our framework for evaluating these activities.  We asked the following questions: When history teachers incorporate the use of primary source documents in their planning, to what degree do they promote development of higher level critical thinking?  What might a planned activity look like when they do?  We found that the majority of the activities examined here employ primary source documents for lower order purposes but held the promise of easy transition to higher order uses.


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