Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Instruction and Teacher Education


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Harvey A. Allen


The purpose of this research was to determine if a hands-on approach in teaching social studies might prove to be a viable alternative to traditional methodologies. Lecture and note taking along with question and answer are proving unsatisfactory in elementary and secondary classrooms throughout much of the United States. The case study focused on a student-oriented, student-involved approach called Hands-on-History which the investigator developed to replace conventional instructional methods which remain relatively unchanged in recent American public education. The case study explored the utilization of community resources such as artisans, museums, courthouse archives, and community leaders in the expansion and enhancement of student learning.

The effectiveness of the hands-on approach to curriculum and instruction in local history has been supported by data collected by the investigator in the form of student evaluations and compiled over a ten-year period in the Hands-on-History program. Two sections, approximately 55 students, have responded to this survey instrument each year at the end of each semester during that ten-year period. A second source of data to be reported is based on evaluations completed by instructors who have brought their classes to the hands-on-history site. Collected data is reported in raw numbers and percentages and presented in table form.

The data collected and evaluated in the case study and the personal observations and experiences of the investigator over a twenty-year period of teaching hundreds of students in Hands-on-History provide conclusive evidence that when students experience history rather than read about it they are much more likely to gain ownership in viable living history.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius referenced learning in the following words: "I hear and I forget, I see and I believe, I do and I understand." The "doing" and the "understanding" together create the primary distinction between the traditional education in social studies and the concept of "hands-on education." At the heart of the Hands-on-History approach is that students experience history (their local community history) with their hands, their eyes, and actual sensory experiences. The buildings, the graveyards, the memorials, the community become the classroom, and the instruction with manipulatives, experiences with classmates and artisans, and the physical process of gaining skills ingrain the learning.


© 2010, Harry L. Way