ERIC Identifier: ED274611
Publication Date: 1986-10-00
Author: Risinger, C. Frederick
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.

How To Plan And Implement Successful Social Studies Inservice Programs. ERIC Digest No. 34.

During the past decade, educational criticism and reform have affected most aspects of public education in the United States. Scholars, blue-ribbon commissions, and social critics have scrutinized the educational system, pointed to perceived flaws, and prescribed remedies. Nearly every state has increased course requirements or mandated curriculum changes. The social studies curriculum is affected, directly and indirectly, by these efforts. Currently, a major focus of the reformers is teacher preparation. Nationally, and in many states, dramatic changes in teacher training and certification have been recommended and implemented.

These reform efforts will influence the schools gradually or, given the resistance of the educational system to change, perhaps not at all. The overwhelming majority of people who will be teaching five years from now are already in the classroom. If new ideas about teaching, improved instructional strategies, and more effective materials are to be added to the day-to-day activities of social studies teachers, the primary route must be through in-service education. The most convenient and frequent means of in-service education is the workshop--a relatively short meeting (a few hours to a few weeks) on a specific topic that provides theoretical and practical assistance to social studies teachers and/or supervisors.

This Digest (1) examines the purposes and types of social studies in-service workshops; (2) provides guidelines for effective planning and implementation; and (3) suggests helpful hints and areas of caution--all designed to assist department heads, supervisors, and teachers in conducting successful in-service workshops.


There are at least six types of social studies workshop programs--each distinguished by specific goals and modes of operation. Sometimes a workshop may combine two or more types. These six types are outlined below.

--CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT, REVISION, AND IMPROVEMENT. These are very common purposes for workshops. As social studies educators struggle with demands brought by an era of educational reform, the social studies curriculum in individual school buildings, school districts, and entire states is being examined and restructured. To be effective, this type of workshop requires extended periods of time. Workshop length may range from a concentrated two- or three-week period during the summer months to the three to five years needed for a project requiring periodic sessions in which educational philosophy and goals are discussed, and specific content, scope and sequence, and instructional activities are developed.

--AWARENESS AND/OR DISSEMINATION OF SOCIAL STUDIES MATERIALS AND STRATEGIES. Ranging in length from an hour to one day, this workshop format allows for explanations and demonstrations of new or exemplary materials or teaching methods. The format differs from that of the curriculum development and improvement workshop, because the focus is on awareness rather than academic content or theories of teaching.

--EVALUATION OF CURRICULUM OR INSTRUCTIONAL IMPACT. This type of workshop focuses on effects of the current program on students and teachers. Such a workshop might include findings of researchers and various kinds of evaluation strategies and instruments. It frequently is a difficult workshop to plan and implement, because participants may have preconceived notions about the materials or practices being studied.

--EVALUATION OF STUDENT PROGRESS. Similar to the evaluation of curriculum or instructional impact workshop, this type shifts the focus to measuring student achievement. To be effective, such a workshop requires prior development of student goals and the means of attaining them. Both this type of workshop and the curriculum instructional impact workshop are useful antecedents to a curriculum development program.

--IMPLEMENTATION OF SPECIFIC MATERIALS OR STRATEGIES. A natural follow-up to the awareness workshop, this program should include a thorough review of the innovation's rationale and goals and of presentations from scholars in the field. Relevant research and demonstrations, preferably by classroom teachers who have used the materials or instructional strategies, should be emphasized.

--LOCAL SHARING PROGRAMS. This infrequently used workshop can quicken the diffusion of new ideas, materials, or teaching strategies. Generally, one or a group of local or area teachers describe and demonstrate exemplary practices in their classrooms with a group of students and a teacher audience or with the audience role-playing a class. A variant of this workshop type occurs when teachers meet with business people, organization leaders, community leaders, the clergy, and other citizens to identify local needs and use local resources to improve schools.


As in most endeavors, planning is the key to successful in-service programs. The following questions provide useful guidelines for planning.

1. WHAT ARE NEEDS OF PARTICIPANTS? Successful workshops meet the needs of participants. Survey teachers to determine their concerns. Interview department heads and solicit suggestions and perceived needs.

2. WHAT WILL BE THE CONTENT OF THE WORKSHOP? After determining needs, select the content, format, and topic of the workshop in order to best meet participants' needs. New materials or teaching methods may represent an unexpected solution to an old need or even a solution to an unidentified problem. Effective workshop planners continually identify and analyze the needs of social studies teachers and continually seek information about new instructional materials and strategies. They look for linkages between the two.

3. WHAT ARE SPECIFIC WORKSHOP GOALS? Even for a one-hour workshop, specific goals should be identified and communicated to participants. This makes overall planning easier, provides the basis for the workshop schedule, and enables both the participants and presenters to evaluate the program.

4. WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT THE WORKSHOP? This topic includes financial support, sufficient time to achieve the goals, availability of participants, ample materials, appropriate facilities, and human resources such as content specialists and demonstration teachers.

5. WHAT PARTICIPANT RECRUITMENT AND PUBLIC RELATIONS ACTIONS MUST BE TAKEN? Depending on the workshop type and audience, recruitment brochures or leaflets may be necessary. News releases for recruitment and post-workshop publicity are also sometimes required.

6. WHAT LOGISTICAL TASKS ARE NECESSARY FOR A SUCCESSFUL WORKSHOP? Attention to such items as appropriate audio-visual equipment, refreshments, programs, seating arrangement, and parking can make the difference between a successful and a mediocre workshop.

7. WHAT FORMAT WILL BE USED FOR WORKSHOP EVALUATION? If a workshop is worth planning, it should be evaluated in relation to the predetermined goals. For informal or small local programs, a discussion at the end of the workshop or within a few days is sufficient. A workshop designed to encourage the use of new materials or strategies requires more elaborate and longer-term evaluation.

8. WHAT FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES (IF ANY) ARE NECESSARY? Some workshop goals are best achieved when follow-up activities reinforce the message. These activities may include short sessions in which participants discuss their experiences since the workshop; visits by workshop planners to participants' classrooms; local workshops where participants tell colleagues about their experiences; or presentations by workshop participants at local, state, or national professional meetings.


The following suggestions have been gathered from training manuals, leadership materials, and personal contact with skilled social studies workshop planners and presenters. While not intended to be a comprehensive list, they provide guidance and may serve as a checklist during workshop planning and implementation.

--DO involve participants as much as possible in the planning, implementation, and evaluation. Participant involvement in goal setting is directly related to participant satisfaction with the workshop.

--DON'T try to accomplish too much in one program. Trying to cover too much or combine two or more workshop types is a major cause of dissatisfaction.

--DO use demonstrations and peer teaching when the workshop goal is to encourage teachers to use a new teaching style or new materials. Experience with the innovation, even if only for an hour, is directly related to the willingness of teachers to try the materials in their own classrooms.

--DON'T forget content from history and the social sciences in workshop planning. Social studies teachers are eager to attend subject matter updates in their teaching area. Workshops on new materials and teaching techniques should include presentations by content specialists.

--DO use some kind of an "ice breaker" activity, even with participants who know each other. Individuals who feel comfortable with the group are much more likely to participate actively in workshop activities.

--DON'T forget administrative support. Successful implementation of new materials or strategies frequently requires administrative approval and assistance. If possible, administrators should be included in some part of the program.


Hanna, Bill. "Staff Development: Some Principles and Priorities." SOCIAL STUDIES REVIEW 20 (Spring 1981):41-44.

Social Science Education Consortium. OUTREACH SERVICES FOR SOCIAL SCIENCE EDUCATORS, GRADES 7-12: FINAL REPORT. Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium, 1980. ED 223 515

City University of New York. PROJECT DIRECTOR'S REPORT: ALTERNATIVES IN SOCIAL SCIENCE EDUCATION, 1978-1980. Flushing, NY: City University of New York, 1980. ED 210 229

Rhodes, Gregory and Victor A. Smith. IN-SERVICE NEEDS ASSESSMENT: SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHERS IN INDIANA. Muncie, IN: Ball State University, 1975. ED 125 967

Sergiovanni, Thomas J. HANDBOOK FOR EFFECTIVE DEPARTMENTAL LEADERSHIP. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1977.

National Education Association. TEACHING SOCIAL STUDIES IN THE SECONDARY SCHOOL: DESCRIPTION OF TEACHER IN-SERVICE EDUCATION MATERIALS. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1977. ED 167 516

Von Eschenback, John F., and Ronald G. Noland. "In-Service Delivery System Preferences Among Social Studies Teachers." THE SOCIAL STUDIES 73 (Jan.-Feb. 1982):16-20.

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