The TExES Social Studies 4 – 8 Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine if an individual has the knowledge necessary to teach social studies at the middle school level in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses an individual’s knowledge of a variety of topics related to social studies as well as the individual’s understanding of the teaching methods required to effectively teach these topics. This exam may be required, in addition to or instead of the Generalist 4 – 8 Exam, in order to become a certified middle school teacher in the state of Texas depending on the exact type of teaching position the individual is pursuing. The exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:
- Social Studies Content (71%)
- Social Studies Foundations, Skills and Foundations (29%)
The exam-taker will have 5 hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The registration fee for the Social Studies 4 – 8 Exam is $131 and the exam is only administered in a computer-based format. However, there are usually other exams and fees that are required in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level middle school teacher within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Discuss the importance of making social studies activities relevant to today’s world.
Social studies is composed of history and the social sciences (government, citizenship, sociology, economics, cultural influences and the effects of technology). It is a broad subject, indeed. Imparting the values and mores of society to impressionable young people and teaching them how to be involved, engaged, active members of the world is a huge responsibility. It is critical for teachers to use real problems appropriate to the students’ age, and prod them to use their creativity to dissect problems and devise solutions. Part of the process is to challenge students’ thinking by offering stimulating subjects from which to select their reading, writing, discussion and debate topics. The projects need to combine independent study with group responsibilities, because this is the way the real world works: people bring their unique perspective to the group and the group reaches a consensus on the best way to tackle a problem. Social studies is a class that can and should be realistic preparation for participation as an adult member of society.
2. Discuss the importance of making connections to other areas of the students’ lives.
A great way to engage adolescents in the learning process is to offer them material that is interesting to them and helps them understand their world better. In other words, the information presented needs to be meaningful and make sense to students. It is imperative for teachers to make connections between classes, and to show students how to apply the knowledge from one class in other disciplines. Connected data can help students to understand new facts, integrate new information and apply lessons. The ability to see the relationships between seemingly unrelated topics and events requires critical thinking and advanced reasoning skills. As students share ideas and ask questions during discussions, alternate perspectives are presented, considered and integrated. When students explore the relationship between activities and attitudes in school, at home and in the neighborhood, they gradually begin to understand that individual actions have far-reaching consequences. Making that critical connection is a major milestone in an adolescent’s maturation process.
3. Explain the importance of appreciating cultural diversity.
Diversity is the fact or quality of having distinct characteristics. When used to describe a society, diversity means the cultural differences found within the language, dress, arts, and traditions of the aggregate group. There are differences in how individual groups are organized, their understanding of morality, and the ways in which each group interacts both inside and outside their circle. Members of an ethnic group usually identify with a shared ancestry and are frequently bound by a common language, cultural heritage, religious belief system, and behavior patterns.
When students are taught to appreciate diversity, it enables them to function more effectively in a complex, multicultural society. They learn to respect the historical experiences of every cultural group and understand how past actions affect present circumstances. Studying the impact of all cultures greatly enhances students’ ability to get along with different racial, ethnic and gender groups. America may be a melting pot, but that pot contains the hopes, dreams, history and struggles of many ethnic groups.
4. Define citizenship and briefly discuss the rights and duties of being a citizen.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines citizenship as “the status of a citizen with its attendant duties, rights and privileges,” while a citizen is defined as “a person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation.” These definitions need to be used in tandem, because both are important to understanding the term. Teaching citizenship means both explaining the benefits of pledging allegiance to a country and outlining the responsibilities that accompany the privileges and protection of that country.
Specific responsibilities include paying taxes, serving in the armed forces when needed, and obeying the laws as enacted by duly-elected governing bodies. Moral and ethical duties are a little more difficult to define. A citizen should be committed to his community, exercise his right to vote, work to improve the quality of life for everyone, and offer constructive criticism when warranted. A citizen has a responsibility to respect and be prepared to defend his rights and the rights of others against those who would abuse or deny those rights.
5. Discuss economics and its main areas, macroeconomics and microeconomics.
- ECONOMICS, one of the social sciences, is the study of the production, allocation and use of goods and services. Economists research issues and analyze data to determine the most effective ways to use scarce resources to meet the needs of the greatest number of people. Because the world of the twenty-first century is connected in many ways, the economies of every nation play a role in the production, distribution and consumption of every known resource and commodity. For this reason, it is important to take a global view in order to truly understand how economics works.
- MACROECONOMICS is the study of an entire national economy. It includes the value of goods and services produced, the total personal and business income earned, the number of employable people working at any one time, and the how and why of price change.
- MICROECONOMICS is the study of the components of the national economy, including individual companies, households, and consumers. It includes study of producers and consumers, and analyzes how production and consumption determines availability and prices, which in turn helps define the market for a particular commodity.
6. Define these economic systems: capitalism, mercantilism, socialism and communism.
- CAPITALISM is the system that mandates a free-market economy. In this free-enterprise system, people own businesses and property and buy goods and services. Because of the establishment of monetary systems and legal rules, mercantilism provided the foundation for the formation of capitalism.
- MERCANTILISM relied on government regulation to control the flow of goods and services between rivals. The worth of the economy and the power of the government were based on the amount of gold and silver in the treasury. This led to trade treaties designed to increase the possession of precious metals.
- SOCIALISM is considered a transitional state between capitalism and communism. The government owns most large industries and provides education, health and welfare benefits. The citizens are given some choices. The former Soviet Union was an example of centralized socialism. Denmark and Sweden are examples of non-communist socialism.
- COMMUNISM is a system in which the community owns all assets, and resources are divided according to need. In practice, the government owns all property and industries, and controls production allocation based on strict class divisions and status.
7. Define these forms of government: republic, parliamentary, monarchy, theocracy and dictatorship.
- A REPUBLIC is governed by representatives freely elected by the people for a specific period of time. In a democratic republic, the majority of the population has the opportunity to decide who will govern their country.
- A PARLIAMENTARY form of government is run by representatives who are chosen from a particular political party. Each stays in office as long as his party is in power.
- In a MONARCHY, the king or queen has power because of his or her lineage. The title is passed through family ties. In some cases the monarch is merely a figurehead, while in others he or she has absolute power.
- A THEOCRACY is a system of government based on the tenets of one religion or an agent of a particular deity. Frequently, other religious beliefs are not allowed or tolerated in a theocracy.
- A DICTATORSHIP is ruled by a person who has not been elected. He may have come to power as the result of a coup or revolution of some kind. Force, fear and intimidation are frequently used to maintain control.
8. Define geography and discuss cultural geography and physical geography.
Geography is the study of the earth and its human, animal and plant populations. It is considered the “mother of all sciences.” Human beings have always been curious about distance areas of the globe. Satisfying that curiosity by discovering and exploring new places, cultures and ideas provided the building blocks of geography. Geography has inspired work in other areas, such as biology, anthropology, geology, mathematics, astronomy and chemistry. Studying geography encourages responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources.
Cultural geography is the study of how human culture interacts with the land. It is a broad field that includes language, religion, medicine, politics, population and demographics, the differences between urban and rural areas, transportation systems, economics, entertainment, and food.
Physical geography is the study of the surface of the earth. The earth sciences are concerned with the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. These three, working together, create the conditions needed to sustain the biosphere, which is composed of all living organisms.
9. Discuss classroom communication methods.
Teachers need to remember that not all students are comfortable speaking in front of a group. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the goal is to foster an environment that encourages participation and no one is inhibited or prevented from participating because of teaching methods. Participation is predicated on teacher and student expectations, instructional strategies, and classroom atmosphere. It is important to develop class rules for discussions, provide frequent feedback, and ask for student input to ensure teaching practices are in line with student perceptions.
Calling on a student can be either motivating or intimidating, depending upon the student and the situation. When a question is asked, a problem posed, or a solution required, students need time to think about the information and formulate a response. A teacher should require different students to summarize the lesson, pose a prepared question from assigned material, or describe something they learned. Acknowledging every contribution encourages additional participation.
10. Define content standards, performance standards, and technical quality as they relate to student assessment.
CONTENT STANDARDS are the outline of specific areas of knowledge students are required to learn; some include general concepts and interdisciplinary studies. Some reflect grade level and content while others combine grade levels and integrate content across disciplines.
PERFORMANCE STANDARDS as defined by The Goals 2000: Educate America Act are “concrete examples and explicit definitions of what students have to know and be able to do to demonstrate proficiency in the skills and knowledge framed by content standards.” They must be appropriate for the age, feasible to administer, and useful for evaluating progress.
TECHNICAL QUALITY criteria suggested by The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing describe the characteristics of effective assessment:
- Cognitive Complexity: assessment evaluates problem-solving, critical thinking, reasoning ability.
- Content Quality: assessment demonstrates subject knowledge.
- Meaningfulness of tasks is clear.
- Appropriate Language is used.
- Transfer and Generalization: assessment indicates ability to complete similar tasks; results permit valid generalization about learning capabilities.
- Fairness of performance measurements and scoring.
- Reliability: assessment data adds to background knowledge.
- Consequences of assessment reflect desired effect on students, teachers, and the educational system.