Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



This dissertation can be visualized as a three-legged stool with each leg supporting overall social studies education. One leg discusses underrepresentation, a second leg represents geography education, and the third leg addresses issues and debates in curriculum reform. The dissertation is comprised of three independent studies that are conjoined by addressing three fundamental issues within the social studies discipline.

Study One engage with the empirical Teacher Self-Efficacy literature to examine how researchers address themes and variables of self-efficacy in the context of teachers. Through a narrative literature review, I was able to examine and describe the full range of contributions and outcomes that research provides scholars of teacher self-efficacy, also allowing me to identify deficiencies within the literature. The findings of this study provided a contextual understanding of the climate and representation of social studies education research.

Study Two investigated the self-efficacy of geography content teachers. I used a survey instrument to collect data on levels of self-efficacy, demographics, pre-service teacher education, education attainment, and in-service teacher resources. The findings identified that the survey instrument was useful in differentiating variables that affect levels of self-efficacy. Additionally, the results provide data that supports an argument for better geography preparation and support programs to foster geography competency around social studies teachers.

Study Three examined critically examined the spatial cognition debate and the effects that the debate had on research development of over two decades. The study utilized peer-reviewed empirical data to conduct a meta-analysis. Findings suggest that an epistemological disagreement over fundamental mapping concepts created a divide between geographers and educational psychologist. Additionally, the majority of the findings supported the theoretical framework of the educational psychologist.

The final chapter concludes that more research is needed to evaluate the climate of social studies education within the United States. Though my research focused on self-efficacy and the underpinnings of social cognitive theory, a broader knowledge of social studies education could assist in identifying sound recommendations and calls for future research. Because social studies education is a multidisciplinary field within education, and researchers are challenged to collaborate with colleagues housed in the subdisciplines of the field. Moreover, reciprocal collaborations between educational scholars and content discipline experts must exist to ensure the curriculum adequately represents and conveys content specific nuances.



Committee Chair

Tobin, Kerri J



Available for download on Tuesday, October 27, 2099