Author Biography

Autumn Handin is a graduate of the elementary education program at the University of South Florida and is currently an elementary school teacher. Jessica Leeman is a doctoral candidate at USF and was Ms. Handin's social studies method instructor and critical friend for this practitioner inquiry.


Social studies has historically been marginalized in elementary school classrooms, with little instructional time devoted to the subject (Houser, 1995; VanFossen, 2005). Pressed for time, teachers frequently turn to teacher-directed methods that promote passive learning and perpetuate the perception that social studies is a boring and irrelevant subject in the lives of students (Zaho & Hoge, 2005). If social studies instruction is to be meaningful, teachers must utilize active learning strategies that encourage social interaction and discourse. Brain-based learning strategies connect pedagogy with cognitive neuroscience, allowing students to “learn more quickly, retain and recall more, and enjoy learning” (Kagan, 2016, p. vii). In this study, a pre-service teacher describes her inquiry into brain-friendly teaching strategies and their impact on fifth-grade students’ interest, engagement, and achievement in social studies.