The goals of the social studies are about citizenship and developing persons. However, it has low status, tends to be marginalized, and is taught in much the same manner as the other disciplines even though "citizenship" suggests a seamless view of knowledge. This paper sets out the rationale for a research agenda to interrogate the problem of generating a genuine social studies. It does this by analysing the role played by learning theories - behaviourist, cognitivist, and humanist - in structuring the social studies learning environment in different countries and contexts. Theories of situated cognition provide a framework for investigating how teachers, educators, and students learn their environment, how they attempt to overcome it, and whether and how attempts at overcoming can be conceptualized more abstractly, leading to knowledge building in the social studies - more robust theories, concepts, propositions, and learning approaches. This study, then, is charting a way forward in reconceptualizing learning in the social studies so that citizenship and personhood can become more realizable goals.