Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Len King


This study describes differential student perceptions towards Social Studies in a high school classroom. A case study approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative data gathering techniques, was used to collect data by seeking individual students' perceptions of the classroom environment, the teacher, classroom instruction and the Social Studies subject content. Social Studies education in Western Australia has been guided by the Social Studies K-10 Syllabus which has been implemented for almost 10 years. In 1990 a comprehensive review of the curriculum was commissioned by the Ministry of Education and undertaken by Print (1990a). This study found that a need existed for teachers to promote Social Studies education within the schools. To enable educators to act on this recommendation, it followed that, among other things, a need existed for data about students' thoughts and feelings towards the subject. Since the review of literature indicated that the classroom environment was a variable that impacted on the formation of attitudes towards school subjects an exploratory case study approach was used to investigate student perceptions in a year 9 Social Studies classroom. The most significant finding in the study was the high proportion of students who reported that they liked the subject. While some felt that it would not help them gain employment all valued the subject and thought it would help them understand the world around them. The emergent themes from The Study centred on the role that the teacher, achievement motivation and the classroom climate played in the formation of attitude towards a school subject. Students perceived their classroom teacher as being well organised, able to explain clearly and fair in his treatment of all students. Teacher strategies that promoted active participation and a reasonable degree of independence were variables that were rated highly by all students and their importance appeared to negate the less desirable aspects of the class, particularly the amount of note writing and lack of activities. Students who liked the subject had high self-perceptions of ability, took responsibility for their own learning, were motivated by receiving good grades and attributed their success to personal effort. Students who did not like the subject perceived it to be difficult to understand and irrelevant to their future needs. These students differed in reasons for their lack of achievement which included external causes, such as difficult content and poor teacher strategies, and internal causes such as lack of effort. All students reported that low grades affected their perceptions of a subject and they all tended to like subjects in which they achieved well. The findings of this study are limited by the small sample size. Further study would need to be undertaken on a larger sample size for any broad generalisations to be drawn with greater accuracy.