Social Studies Teachers Sharpen Their Skills with New Literacies and Global Learning Focus

A photo of the NC State Memorial Belltower

Thanks to funding from the Martorella Award, three students will graduate NC State College of Education’s social studies specialization of its New Literacies and Global Learning (NLGL) master’s degree program on Friday, May 10. The Martorella Award, named for former social studies education professor Peter Martorella, provided a stipend for students to help offset the costs of graduate school.

“We are very grateful for the financial support of the Martorella Fund,” said Meghan Manfra, an associate professor of social studies education and coordinator for the program. “The scholarships helped our program attract talented and committed teachers to pursue graduate education.”

The NLGL social studies program prepares experienced teachers with strategies for addressing shifts in the classroom caused by changing technologies, social media and an ever-growing global society. The program emphasizes collegiality and content-specific pedagogy using a cohort model while developing those teachers into educational leaders.

“Members of the social studies cohort have far exceeded expectations,” Manfra said. “They have worked hard and consistently demonstrated their commitment to positively impacting the lives of their students and the field of social studies education.”

Three students in the social studies cohort — Kristofer Graham, Rachel McIntyre and Jeremy Thomas — taught in Alamance and Wake counties while completing the program. This enabled them to apply what they learned in the program directly to their own classrooms in real time.

“This program exposed me to valuable teaching strategies I have already employed,” said Graham, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at North Garner Middle School. “I am moving from a chronological approach to history to teaching my courses thematically by incorporating projects. Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) has been one of the most valuable strategies I have learned.”

Inquiry-based instruction, like PBI, is an active learning technique that sparks students’ curiosity to learn new material. It serves as a major theme throughout the NLGL program to encourage educators to use digital materials to build engagement in the classroom and improve student learning.

Another focus of the program is on the C3 Framework, a learning framework that helps adolescents prepare for college, career and civic life so they can be informed, engaged and respectful citizens as they grow up.

“Before the program, I was consistently using inquiry-based learning and referencing the C3 Framework,” said Thomas, a social studies teacher at Southern Wake Academy. “What the program did was allow me to understand why and how to utilize it more efficiently. It gave me the ability to adapt my class into one big inquiry with the C3 at its heart.”

In addition to inquiry-based instruction and the C3 Framework, the program offers an option to earn a curriculum specialist license along with a master’s degree. This is what attracted Rachel McIntyre to the program. She teaches at Western Alamance High School.

“While I researched the impact of blended learning and discovered new ways to implement this curriculum design method, I deepened my content knowledge in the humanities and broadened my understanding of pedagogy by creating C3 lessons,” McIntyre said. “All of these skills qualify me for curriculum specialist or curriculum developer roles.”

As part of her synthesis project for the NLGL program, she developed blended learning courses for her Advanced Placement United States History class using videos of lectures and online test and quiz platforms to provide immediate feedback. She says the experience has provided her students with opportunities to individualize their learning and access course material on demand. It also helped her gain experience using the methods introduced in the program.

That’s something that all three of the graduates mirrored as they reflected on their time at the NC State College of Education.

“I chose this program because it was different from other programs I saw,” Graham said. “It was able to effectively bridge technology into the discipline. 21st century students are digital natives which means I must know how to meet their needs in social studies while integrating technology at times.”