Social Studies Education

Kim Foss, Tomson 290

The purpose of teaching social studies in middle and high school (grades 5-12) is three-fold:

  1. To provide middle and high school students a broad foundation in what is known about human social experience, interaction, and behavior; 
  2. To provide students with perspectives that will assist them in understanding self and others; and
  3. To provide students a foundation for appreciating and critically evaluating claims of knowledge about human social experience, interaction, and behavior.

Overview of the Major

Social studies education is an interdisciplinary major involving seven disciplines: economics, education, history, geography, political science, psychology, and sociology/anthropology. It is a necessary component for a license to teach social studies in middle school and high school.

The field of social studies education demands reflective practitioners with a broad foundation in the liberal arts and specific knowledge in each of the seven disciplines. The social studies education major equips students with this core content knowledge while also providing multiple opportunities for critical thinking about the various ways we construct knowledge and communicate the human experience. Students may consider a double major with one of the seven disciplines or combine the major with a concentration in racial and ethnic studies or other interdisciplinary concentration. Students may graduate with a social studies education major without completing requirements leading to a license to teach (see additional requirements below).

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Major


See Academic Honors

Criteria for Distinction

  1. Achievement of the minimum grade points of 3.0 overall and of 3.5 in the major coursework;
  2. A major, substantive project or paper prepared with the direction and approval of the program director. It should either confirm or improve the student’s record in course work by demonstrating the quality of the student’s skill as a researcher, as an interpreter of the ideas of others, and as a thinker. The final project or paper must be reviewed and approved for distinction by the program director and one other faculty member;
  3. A short essay (1000 words) that addresses how their major coursework, and major, substantive project or paper, has assisted in their intellectual development to be submitted to the Education Department faculty for approval.  This essay will accompany their major, substantive project or paper when submitted to the Program Director and faculty member for review;
  4. Presentation of the project or paper to faculty and students at a department colloquium prior to May of your senior year; and
  5. Presentation of the project or paper at a national conference, and/or presentation at a state level conference complemented with submission for publication to a professional journal approved of by the program director.

Please contact the program director for more information on distinction in this major, and for guidance on initiating the process.

Special Programs

Students may choose from a wide number of domestic and international off-campus study opportunities within each of the various disciplines to complement the major. They can also participate in various off-campus Interims offered through the Education Department provided they meet all prerequisites. Students who pursue a teaching license may consider student teaching in an international setting at one of our partner schools in India. Further information on field experiences, mentoring and tutoring opportunities, and independent study options are available in the Education Center.

Special Note: All prospective students should read the material in the Education Department section of this catalog and must meet with an Education Department faculty advisor.

Social Studies Education Major

Social studies education is a 12-course major consisting of 10 prescribed courses and two electives. Students may graduate with a social studies education major without completing requirements leading to a license to teach (see the following additional requirements). Up to a maximum of two courses either taken off-campus with non St. Olaf faculty or transferred from other institutions may be included in the major. Not more than one course graded S/U may count toward the major.

HIST 191Europe from the Reformation to Modern Times1.00
HIST 199American History Since 18651.00
One level II history area course on Africa, Asia, or Latin America1.00
ECON 121Principles of Economics1.00
ID 234Human Geography of the Middle East1.00
PSCI 111American Politics1.00
PSYCH 125Principles of Psychology1.00
Select one of the following:1.00
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Race and Class in American Culture
EDUC 290Educational Psychology1.00
EDUC 334Social Studies Perspectives1.00
Global environmental elective 11.00
Multicultural elective 11.00
Total Credits12

Social Studies Major with 5-12 Teaching Licensure

Students must take all twelve courses required for the major described above plus HIST 198 American History to 1865 and a prescribed set of education courses and experiences required for licensure. Students must meet with Robert McClure, education faculty, to plan their program. Students are encouraged to double major and/or take additional coursework in economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology.

The licensure program extends student development in disciplinary content and in pedagogy, which meets or exceeds Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board Rules 8710.4800: Standards for Teachers of Social Studies. In addition to courses and student teaching, requirements include passing MTLE licensure tests and observations and teaching in classroom settings, including one in a diverse setting. For complete information about the teaching license, see Education.

EDUC 334: Social Studies Perspectives

This course examines basic assumptions about social science, primal thought, feminism, humanities, history, post-modernism, and thematic social studies. Students pursue methodologies of structuring knowledge and the means of advancing knowledge in each discipline. Students learn how to relate their social studies subject matter to the total social studies curriculum. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: EDUC 260 or EDUC 290 or permission of instructor.

Director, 2020-21
Robert W. McClure

Associate Professor of Practice in Education
social studies; educational psychology; curriculum and instruction