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Importance of HSIE Education in Secondary Schools

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3474 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Part 1: Personal Philosophy


In the secondary school setting, the key learning areas (KLAs) of HSIE incorporate several subjects including History, Geography, Indigenous Studies, Legal Studies and Business Studies, to name a few. A few these subjects, such as Business Studies and Legal Studies, are restricted to Stage 6 students only. However, all HSIE subjects contribute to creating active and informed Australian citizens, as required by the Australian Curriculum. HSIE subjects are essential to the school system when meeting the goals of the Australian Curriculum. This paper will focus primarily on the subject of History in Stages 4-6. Furthermore, this paper will discuss the ways HSIE achieves compulsory objectives set by the Government and how they help formulate active and informed citizens of Australia.

The Importance of HSIE in Secondary Schools

Humanities and Social Science, more commonly known as HSIE, is vital to the secondary education system due to its contributions to student skills such as analysing and investigating. HSIE addresses a large range of issues such as environmental, political, economic, social, personal and cultural issues. Gilbert (2014, p.04) suggests that these issues assist with developing students to become active, informed and creative citizens. The Australian Curriculum (2019) connects subjects to life skills such as Business Studies developing student awareness about the role that individuals, businesses and Government play in the economy. The links addressed by the Australian Curriculum (2019) display the vitality between HSIE subjects and the Secondary schooling system.

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The Melbourne Declaration of Education Goals for Young Australians (2008, p.07-08), which the Australian Curriculum flows from, outlines 2 core learning goals for young Australians; “Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence” and “All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals [and finally] active and informed citizens.” These 2 goals represent the key aspects of the Australian Curriculum and outlines the kind of twenty-first century citizens the Australian Government seeks.

Considering these goals with the skills and benefits that flow from HSIE subjects, the importance of HSIE within the secondary education system cannot be understated.

Linking the Stages

Throughout Secondary HSIE, Stages are interconnected which sees the same skills and concepts studied with different degrees of depth. For example, the Australian Curriculum (2019) acknowledges that Stage 4 and 5 History “provides opportunities for students to investigate Australian and world History”. Stage 6 History teaches the same foundations as lower stages, although, the depth of understanding, extent of knowledge and sophistication of skills is deepened (Australian Curriculum, 2019a). Furthermore, History allows students to develop their knowledge, understanding and skills through the study of societies, events, developments and movements (Australian Curriculum, 2019).

Inquiry, problem solving and deep conceptual learning are just some of the skills students develop through the study of Secondary HSIE subjects (Fahey, 2012, p.03). Stage 4 expects students to describe and explain and Stage 5 expects students to analyse and explain. Students participating in Stage 6 History (Modern and Ancient History) are expected to master skills and ideologies taught in Stage 4 and 5 History. It is presumed that students understand the concepts discussed in HSIE through the advancement from lower-order thinking to higher-order thinking skills, suitable to their cognitive development.

The objectives of HSIE at Stage 6

The focus of HSIE at Stage 6 lies deeply in the creation of citizens who are active in contemporary times. Subjects throughout HSIE are varied in their content, however, they share similarities in their goals. For example, Indigenous Studies focuses on students promoting “a just society for all Australians” (Education Standard Authority, 2010, p.07) which is a similar goal for Legal Studies, “a just and fair society” through the legal system (Education Standard Authority, 2009, p.07). Through student engagement with HSIE subjects, students are presented with the opportunity to strengthen their skills such as deep conceptual learning, problem solving and inquiry, to name a few (Fahey, 2012, p.03). These skills are not unique to HSIE subjects and can be utilised in other subjects such as English, Mathematics and Science. However, HSIE subjects are unique in that they ask questions that are central to students lives and imperative to help promote the notion of change for the future (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2014, p. ix). Therefore, HSIE subjects have the potential to help promote change in our society.

Teaching and learning goals: Modern History teacher

It is clear that HSIE subjects have the potential to equip students appropriately to address change within our society. In Stage 6 Modern History, students are expected to “consider the great social, technological, economic, political and moral transformations from the eighteenth century to the present” (Education Standard Authority, 2017, p.06). One of the many challenges that a teacher faces is stimulating students to realise that as an active, informed and creative citizen they have the potential to make change in their world. Assisting students to come to the realisation have the ability to create change in their world is one of my key goals as a Stage 6 Modern History teacher. This type of approach values education and instils values into students, but it is a limited approach. However, students can accept or decline the ideas at will. Furthermore, it is contested that using an inquiry-based approach to learning can help develop a critical approach to values, where students reach their own opinions regarding values (Kriewaldt & Taylor, 2012, p.313).

A second goal of mine as a Stage 6 Modern History teacher is arguably more practical than creating active citizens of Australia. Stage 6 Modern History requires students to sit the HSC examination. My second objective is to equip students with the appropriate skills and knowledge required to excel in the HSC examination. This will see lessons incorporating a vast range of skills and sources to create an effective and appropriate learning environment for my students. Personally, differentiated teaching would appear to be the most effective teaching strategy for this goal.

Modern History, according to ACARA (2013), has the potential to address cross-curriculum priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATIS) histories and cultures and, Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia and sustainability, to name a few. These forms of cross-curriculum priorities would be on a much lesser scale than Stage 4 and 5, where depth studies are engaged. For example, The Asia-Pacific World in Stage 4. On the other hand, General Capabilities are easily met in Modern History through Ethical Behaviour, Intercultural understanding and Critical and Creative Thinking (ACARA, 2013). Modern History is the study of culturally different societies, as well as our own.

Part 2: Professional perspectives on pedagogical approaches


Skills Development

When considering my teaching and learning objectives for Stage 6 Modern History, there will be mention of the importance of skill development for a successful HSC experience. Skill development is important in Stage 4 and 5 as this is the initial engagement of essential HSC skills for History, such as the ability to effectively analyse source material. A variety of teaching strategies and methods must be implemented to ensure students remain engaged with the lesson and the skills being taught. These skills include, individual ability to communicate their understanding and perspective of History (Education Standard Authority, 2012). These skills will influence the teaching strategies utilised to ensure students become proficient in these skills.

In Stage 4 and 5, it is compulsory for students to engage with History as a subject. Students are encouraged to select Modern History as an elective in Stage 6. If students choose Modern History in Stage 6, they will attain many skills and abilities that will assist them not only in Modern History, but in many other elective subjects such as Biology and Legal Studies. Although skills are taught in Stage 6 History lessons, there is more of a focus on content required to be successful in the HSC. At Stage 6 level, there will be elements of Intellectual Quality as well as a Quality Teaching Framework such as Higher-order Thinking and Deep Knowledge to ensure students perform to the best of their ability (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003, p.11). Students are expected to work towards learning outcomes that are more intellectually demanding in Stage 6 History lessons.


Direct Instruction

As previously mentioned, it is important to use an array of methods and strategies within the classroom. There are many arguments about the advantages and disadvantages when using direct instruction (occasionally referred to as guided instruction) in lessons. Direct instruction requires whole class expository teaching which ensures the learning outcomes are extremely clear for the students. Students are guided through new material in a scaffolded manner towards independent practice (Killen, 2016, p.122). Teachers are required to encourage a strong intellectual focus where learning outcomes are clear and students are supported in a safe learning environment (Killen, 2016, p.121). Furthermore, Direct Instruction meets all 3 key elements of the Quality Teaching framework and is receiving much more academic support (Killen, 2016; Hattie & Yates, 2014).

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Using the same teaching strategy would quickly become repetitive and disengaging for students. The art to teaching is to know what teaching strategy is best for the scenario (or content) and how to implement it effectively (Marsh, 2010, p.144). An aim for the Stage 6 Modern History involves students obtaining knowledge, understanding and the skills of critical analysis and synthesis (Education Authority Standard, 2017, p.08). Direct instruction would be suited best for lessons that include some content combined with skill activities such as source analysis. This would ensure that students are able to interrupt new information and practice skills within this content that would lead them to a more independent practice.

Choosing content

Making decisions about the content will be guided by the subject syllabus. History is unique in that it offers a selection for the teacher to choose from. For example, Stage 4 Depth study provides the teacher with 4 options to choose from (Education Standard Authority, 2012a). This encourages the teacher to incorporate their subject strengths in terms of content knowledge, but also attempt to incorporate student interests into the subject. Including student interests displays elements of a quality learning environment that supports students’ needs within the classroom (Department of Education and Training, 2003).

The History syllabus also encourages contemporary issues to be explored. This is evident with migration and anniversaries of significant events. This content provides students with a plethora of media representations on the topics available.

At Stage 6, content may seem a bit prescripted by the syllabus. However, there is a lot of choice within 3 of the 4 studies available in Stage 6 History (Education Standard Authority, 2017, p.10). I would negotiate with students on which aspects of the curriculum sparks their interests as well as my expertise. School resources would play a vital role here also, as some schools may have more resources available for certain topics. It is important to not to duplicate information or overlap to ensure students are equipped appropriately for the preliminary and HSC examinations.

Choosing resources

Deciding which resources are most useful for your classes will depend heavily on what resources are available at your school as well as knowing the students and how they learn. Knowing how students respond to various resources will be important. For example, will students engage better by reading a textbook for this activity or will a quick introductory video be more beneficial? Fortunately, the internet allows us as educators a plethora of resources to help assist in teaching. The internet also introduces other problematic situations such as credibility.

Sites such as Scootle, TES and Sparknotes may be of benefit to History teachers. In Stage 6 History, the selections of resources may focus on the varying tasks that students are more likely to experience in their HSC exams. These resources can include past HSC papers that may be bought online or sourced through other teachers.

A large aspect of Stage 6 learning involves the use of sources, which will need to be carefully chosen to ensure they are relevant to the lesson as well as intellectually challenging for the students to enable Higher-Order Thinking. Often fantastic primary sources can be found on academic sites such as Trove and State libraries. Furthermore, it is important to seek sources that are cognitively appropriate for Stage 6 students.

Choosing learning activities

Decisions about learning activities differ greatly on the type of learning outcomes, Stage of study, and the student demographic of the class. Marsh and Hart (2011) suggest that student-centred learning activities such as dramatic re-enactments and collaborative learning activities can assist in stimulating the students. However, time for Stage 6 students can often be limited, therefore learning activities that maximise the time spent on covering content is more effective. These forms of activities may include class discussions, lectures and skill practice, to name a few. However, it is important to keep students engaged and interested in the content being taught. This may be achievable through the incorporation of deep group discussions throughout various content milestones.


The KLAs of HSIE is uniquely positioned within the Australian Curriculum to help create active, informed and creative 21st century citizens of Australia. As outlined in the essay, HSIE offers students a plethora of skills to help with other secondary subjects, but also with contemporary society. General Capabilities and Cross-Curriculum Priorities are evident through-out the senior Stages of the Curriculum where the focus switches to the learning outcomes that students will require to succeed in their HSC exam. While a mix of pedagogies are important when considering educational outcomes for students, it is clear from my discussion of Direct Instruction and Skills Development, that I take a more teacher-centred learning strategy, particularly with Stage 6 History teaching.





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