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Social Studies Teacher Education: Critical Issues and Current Perspectives

reviewed by Janie Hubbard - June 01, 2018

coverTitle: Social Studies Teacher Education: Critical Issues and Current Perspectives
Author(s): Christopher C. Martell (Ed.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641130466, Pages: 244, Year: 2017
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Through a series of chapters written by social studies educators and scholars, Social Studies Teacher Education: Critical Issues and Current Perspectives directs teacher educators’ attention to critical issues linked to the turbulent times in which we live. The book’s aim is to support educators with research and solutions for preparing beginning and experienced teachers, “better educating them to address growing local, national, and global concerns” (p. 1). Overarching questions that guide the book include: What can research tell us about preparing and developing social studies teachers for an increasingly complex, interconnected, and rapidly changing world? How can we educate social studies teachers to “teach against the grain” (Cochran-Smith, 1991, 2001)? Martell explains, “The chapters in this book attempt to push us beyond the technical problems of social studies teacher education and instead focus on the big issues of what is missing and what needs to be improved in teacher education” (p. 8).


Martell reasons that two major shifts in the field, inquiry-based teaching models and diversified curricula, serve as counter-reactions to years of neoliberal reforms meant to educate students for the corporate workforce rather than for democratic citizenship and civic competence. To that end, chapter authors address topics such as inquiry-based learning practices, inclusivity, equity, social identity, global citizenship, critical multiculturalism, and educating for democratic citizenship.


Across chapters, contemporary issues are approached from a multi-disciplinary perspective, allowing us to see common threads which often remain invisible, isolated, or decontextualized in other books. In Martell’s volume, authors challenge us to consider difficult, complex questions, broaden students’ perspectives, and develop critical voices and teaching styles to “move from advocate to activist” (p. 128). They argue that as social studies educators we share a responsibility to educate the next generation of democratic citizens living in a pluralistic society.


Chapters Two, Three, and Four discuss current research related to citizenship education with the goal of helping students become global citizens and social justice advocates. Chapter Two concentrates on extensive disciplinary knowledge and methods for educating social justice-oriented teachers. Chapter Three’s author stresses that “a lack of disciplinary understanding and practical instructional tools can handicap even the best-intentioned teachers” (p. 49). She highlights disciplinary knowledge in history, geography, economics, and civics, and calls on teachers to ask questions that challenge traditional narratives, particularly how disciplines “produce, evaluate, and reproduce knowledge” (p. 67). Chapter Four draws on international literature to explore discourses concerned with emerging global citizenship education (GCE) and emphasizes that GCE must reflect everyday experience, attending to relevant personal, local, and societal issues.


Next, authors discuss race, gendered experiences, homophobia, and transphobia before offering practical strategies. For example, Chapter Five includes a section called “Race Talk is Scary as Hell,” written by two black women scholars, which acknowledges that racial blunders occur and proposes strategies for recovery and redemption when discussions involving race go awry. Chapter Six’s literature review presents evidence that gender equity does not yet exist in universities or schools. The author reminds us that the standard “just add women and stir” (Noddings, 2001) approach is miserably inadequate and represents rigid gender-binary thinking. Chapter Seven reexamines the ever-important question: where is the queerness in social studies education? The author acknowledges consistent invisibility of LGBTQ matters in education and counters with several useful strategies “to create the space where queer moments can occur both intentionally and organically” (p. 139). Among other valuable insights, Chapters Six and Seven examine teaching about gender expressions through the intriguing Native American concept of “Two Spirit Traditions”; those born with both masculine and feminine traits and who have assets crucial to a community’s survival.


Other chapters tackle further politically charged issues with comparable depth and vision for change. Immigration produces questions about “curricular limitations, the civic empowerment gap, and the tertiary status of immigration” (p. 151). Chapter Eight contributes original, practical strategies for those interested in working with immigrant youth. Chapter Nine discusses the need for religious literacy, “more specifically, responding to overly-simplistic notions of Muslim-other” (p.175) and urges educators to more assertively teach critical questioning and perspective analysis techniques. Finally, in Chapter Nine, conceptions of citizenship expand to include the responsibility to protect the Earth. Authors argue that the social studies field must not remain silent about Earth-related issues (e.g., climate change, food shortages, population growth, threatened ecosystems).


As a career teacher and social studies teacher educator, Social Studies Teacher Education: Critical Issues and Current Perspectives is undeniably one of my favorite books. I see myself using it in undergraduate methods courses, graduate courses, and in-service professional development. The book’s design is intelligent yet practical; an excellent resource for easily understanding truth removed from politically charged media and so-called “fake news.” The writing style is accessible and each author’s topical research is rich and up-to-date. Martell and other chapter authors truly demonstrate impeccable expertise within the social studies field and in their various special research and teaching interests. After reading, I am left with the feeling that they all care deeply about students and how we can communally help to create a just world in which young people can participate as inquirers, decision makers, and competently engaged citizens. This book is inspiring and much needed in teacher education.



Cochran-Smith, M. (1991). Learning to teach against the grain. Harvard Educational Review, 61(3), 279–310.

Cochran-Smith, M (2001). Learning to teach against the (new) grain. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(1), 3–4.

Noddings, N. (2001). The care tradition: Beyond “add women and stir.” Theory into Practice, 40, 29–34.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 01, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22392, Date Accessed: 1/18/2022 5:16:50 PM

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About the Author
  • Janie Hubbard
    University of Alabama
    E-mail Author
    JANIE HUBBARD is an associate professor of elementary and social studies education at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She also serves as program coordinator for the early childhood and elementary education certification. Her primary research interests are social studies methods and learning, teacher collaboration, and cultural issues. Recent publications include: "K-6 Pre-Service Teachers’ Emerging Professional Identities as Social Studies Educators" in The Journal of Social Studies Research and the chapter "Elementary Civics Education and Diversity (Inclusion)" in No Reluctant Citizens: Teaching Civics in K–12 Classrooms, edited by in J. C. Clabough and T. Litner. Her current project involves co-editing a book for Information Age Publishing entitled Extending the Ground of Public Confidence: Teaching Civil Liberties in K-16 Social Studies Education.
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