Home      Organizing Induction      Improving Practice   

Developing social studies goals, concepts, objectives and standards

Goals are general student performances and outcomes related to

  • What you want the student to know (facts, information, processes, skills)
  • What you want the student to understand (Big Ideas, concepts, principles, generalizations)

Big Ideas, concepts, principles and generalizations help us make sense of major processes and human and natural events.

Why are
Big Ideas, concepts, principles and generalizations important?
Our beliefs, world views, creativity and communication ability depend on the concepts we hold, how strongly we hold them and ways we can change them. Concepts are the building blocks for analytical and mental models. Making concepts explicit and visual helps promote learning (knowledge construction) and assists with memory retention.

Examples of major social studies concepts

A.  The nature of culture and cultural diversity;

B.  The ways human beings view themselves in and over time;

C.  Interactions among  people, places and environments;

D.  The nature of individual development and identity;

E.  Interactions among individuals, groups and institutions;

F.  How people create and change structures of power, authority and governance;

G.  How people organize for production, distribution and consumption of goods and services;

H.  Relationships among science, technology and society;

I.  Global connections and interdependence; and

J.  Ideals, principles and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

Standards are state, local or building performance outcomes set for learners, usually to be achieved at the end of the K-12 experience. Some relate to knowledge; others to concepts. These standards are to be reflected in the curriculum in most states and buildings. To find out more about standards and their uses, go to

For examples, consult any of the sites above.


Instructional objectives are those which are designed for particular instructional events and can often (not always) be measured before and after the learning plan is implemented. They are specific to particular behaviors, conditions, criteria and information. They should be keyed to goals and standards.

For more on writing instructional objectives, see