In 1993, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) appointed a task force to develop social studies curriculum standards for K-12 teachers. At the same time, other educational organizations developed content standards in several disciplines that connect to social studies (e.g., history, geography, civics, economics).
Two years of work and contributions from hundreds of social studies educators led to the NCSS publication Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. This K-12 framework outlines 10 themes to describe performance expectations at early, middle, and high school levels. The themes draw heavily on disciplines whose content and processes have a foundation in social studies.
Lessons in the Social Studies in Action library are linked to the following NCSS themes:
- Culture: Traditions, beliefs, and values of their own groups and society, as well as those of others
- Time, Continuity, and Change: The past, as well as stability and change over time
- People, Places, and Environments: Spatial concepts and relationships
- Individual Development and Identity: Personal identity and cultural contexts
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions: Types of groups and institutions and their relationships to individuals
- Power, Authority, and Governance: Structure of specific governments and various types of government across time and cultures
- Production, Distribution, and Consumption: Decisions that peoples and governments make when limited resources exceed wants
- Science, Technology, and Society: Influence of science and technology over time on the lives of individuals and societies
- Global Connections: The increasing links of peoples and societies across the world in terms of economy, communication, technology, and other factors
- Civic Ideals and Practices: Ideals, beliefs, values, and practices associated with informed citizenship
Within Expectations of Excellence, the themes focus on content and methodology, with specific examples of effective instructional practice and what students should know and be able to do. Rich themes and powerful instruction can achieve the major purposes of social studies as described in this NCSS definition: "...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."