A Study of the Attitudes of Selected Sixth Grade Students Concerning Social Studies

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


Problem: The problem of this study was to determine the current attitudes held by sixth grade students toward social studies.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if there were any significant differences between the attitudes of sixth grade students toward social studies and science, spelling, mathematics, reading, and language. An attempt was also made to determine what effect the following factors might have upon sixth grade students' attitudes toward social studies: sex, size of school district, the degree of usage of several instructional strategies and types of materials, the degree of implementation of the "New Social Studies" approach, the amount of time devoted per week to social studies activities, and the socio-economic status of the students' parents. Thirty randomly chosen sixth grade students from selected classrooms were also individually interviewed in an attempt to learn what sixth grade students specifically find most and least interesting and meaningful about social studies as this type of data is difficult to obtain by means of a questionnaire survey.

Procedures: A questionnaire was devised consisting of ten descriptive phrases. The respondents were asked to identify the phrases they believed accurately described the various academic subjects. Packets were mailed to the principals of 75 randomly selected elementary schools of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, with the request that the principal give the questionnaires, the set of directions, and the teacher information form to a sixth grade social studies teacher in his or her school. Responses were received from 53 classrooms; completed questionnaires were received from 1277 students.

The statistical techniques used for analyzing the questionnaire data included chi square analysis and the one-tailed t-test of significance. In most cases, exact probability levels are shown in the tables. The .05 level was considered the minimum level for significance in this study.

Findings: The major findings of this study are summarized below.

1. Significant differences were found to exist between the attitudes of sixth grade students toward social studies and science, spelling, math, reading, and language.

2. It was found that significant relationships exist between the increase of positive attitudes held by sixth grade students toward social studies and the following factors: (a) use of "New Social Studies" programs, (b) frequent use (more than once a week) of creative and concrete activities as part of social studies classwork, (c) use of fieldtrips and other out-of-classroom experiences, (d) being enrolled in a large school district (student population over 2500), and (e) being in classrooms that devote five or more hours per week to social studies instruction.

3. The attitudes of boys toward social studies were significantly more positive than the attitudes expressed by girls.

4. Studying about people, using a variety of activities and materials, and being actively involved in class activities were given by the interviewed students as being the most enjoyable and meaningful activities of social studies classes.

5. No significant relationship was found to exist between the listing of social studies as the most or least preferred academic subject by sixth grade students and the occupation(s) of the students' parents.

Conclusions: Based upon the findings of this study it can be concluded : that mathematics is, clearly, the favorite subject of the research population; that social studies is the second most unpopular academic subject, and that language is the least popular academic subject. It can also be concluded that the content, methods, and materials of the "New Social Studies" programs are significantly related to the more positive image of social studies possessed by those sixth grade students of this study who were enrolled in classrooms using such programs.

Recommendations: The following recommendations are based upon the analysis of the collected data and the survey of the related literature. It is recommended:

1. That social studies teachers use a variety of methods and materials to develop and maintain student interest in social studies;

2. That sixth grade students be given an opportunity to actively participate in social studies activities. The emphasis must be upon active rather than passive activities;

3. That schools adopt and use social studies programs based upon the content, strategies, methods, and materials of the "New Social Studies" or develop local programs that incorporate these features;

4. That teachers be provided more opportunities through pre- and in-service education to become familiar with current trends and developments in social studies education;

5. That additional research be conducted to determine the extent of usage and effectiveness of "New Social Studies" programs;

6. That additional research be conducted to determine ways to help make social studies a more interesting, meaningful, and exciting study for students.

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