Skip to content Skip to navigation

Study Exploring the Teaching of Historical Thinking in a High-Pressure Accountability Context to Receive NCSS 2017 Exemplary Research Award

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Oct. 16, 2017) - The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) selected “Happy Professional Development at an Unhappy Time": Learning to Teach for Historical Thinking in a High-Pressure Accountability Context,” by Kevin W. Meuwissen (Theory & Research in Social Education, 45 (2), 2016),  as the 2017 Exemplary Research in Social Studies Award winner. The award will be presented at the NCSS 97th Annual Conference during the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) Business Meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:15 p.m. at the InterContinental Hotel, San Francisco. Press Registration is available here. This annual award acknowledges and encourages scholarly inquiry in significant issues and possibilities for social studies education. For more information, visit
Research indicates that adolescents stand to benefit when teachers frame history learning around investigating open-ended questions, constructing persuasive arguments, and interpreting and discussing multiple sources of evidence along the way. Because these practices are challenging to implement in classrooms, it is important that teachers have access to extensive, persistent professional learning opportunities focused on developing stances and strategies that support students’ historical thinking. Meuwissen’s study explores how policies aimed at holding teachers accountable for student achievement outcomes create a teaching context that affects how and whether teachers are able to apply professional development outcomes in historical thinking with their students.
In addition, Meuwissen’s research points to the need to build sustainable local communities or networks of educators that collectively and consistently focus on strengthening learning and instruction; and for administrators to serve as policy gatekeepers so that teachers can focus primarily on student learning and instructional improvement instead of navigating the constraints of high-stakes accountability environments. In effect, Meuwissen’s study points toward a model of professional learning that can improve teachers’ uptake of disciplinary thinking, reading, and writing, as aligned with the goals of the College Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards and Common Core frameworks.
“As an experienced, now  retired teacher, I am aware of the many duties and responsibilities of educators and the heroic efforts they make in trying to keep their students engaged while at the same time doing their best to meet accountability measures. The research by Kevin W. Meuwissen is invaluable in sharing the supports needed for teachers to be able to engage students effectively within our current  accountability driven environment,” said Terry Cherry, President, NCSS.  
“Dr. Meuwissen brings us much needed research that should call us to action for a culture of learning that includes not only professional development opportunities to share innovative student engagement practices, but most importantly, teacher professional networks and administrator support structures that enable and empower educators to apply these critical learnings in engaging and benefiting their students,” said Dr. Lawrence Paska, Executive Director, NCSS.
To learn more about the outcomes of the research study and strategies suggested by the researcher, please join him at his presentation: "Happy Professional Development in an Unhappy Time": Learning To Teach For Historical Thinking in a High-Pressure Accountability Context, at the NCSS Annual Conference on Friday, Nov.  17, 3:30 p.m., Moscone West, San Francisco. Press registration is available here.
Meuwissen joined the Warner School of Education faculty at the University of Rochester, New York, in 2009 and serves as the Director of Teacher Education and Social Studies Education Program Coordinator. He has taught at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels; has served in professional development and program evaluation capacities for several U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grants; and currently works as a curricular and pedagogical support specialist with social studies educators at Rochester’s East High School, as part of a partnership between the school and the University of Rochester. His teaching and research focus on social studies educators’ curricular and pedagogical decision making under the influence of school-institutional politics and competing educational aims, with a new line of scholarship to explore adolescents’ political thinking. In the spring of 2018, he and Paul Fitchett of the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, will publish a co-edited book entitled Social Studies in the New Education Policy Era: Conversations on Purposes, Perspectives, and Practices, through Routledge.
The NCSS Annual Conference is the largest and most comprehensive social studies professional development conference in the United States where social studies educators share, interact, develop ideas, and enhance their skills. This year’s theme, “Expanding Visions/Bridging Traditions,” will offer more than 900 content-rich sessions covering all subjects and grade levels, a lineup of renowned speakers and education experts, and numerous exhibiting organizations displaying the latest in educational resources. For more information visit:
Founded in 1921, National Council for the Social Studies is the largest professional association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. The mission of National Council for the Social Studies is to provide leadership, service, and support for all social studies educators. The NCSS membership represents K-12 classroom teachers, college and university faculty members, curriculum designers and specialists, social studies supervisors, and leaders in the various disciplines that constitute the social studies.
NCSS regards social studies as the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.
For more information contact:
Ana Post