Engagement in Teaching History: Theory and Practices for Middle and Secondary Teachers

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9780130307804: Engagement in Teaching History: Theory and Practices for Middle and Secondary Teachers

This book offers a wealth of ideas for prospective teachers of history, from the selection of content to methods of instruction and ways to assess pupils' learning. Coverage advocates the use of a systematic approach to improving learners' “historical thinking.” It offers guidelines for involving learners in historical inquiry, teaching toward chronological thinking, encouraging deliberative discussions, and using primary sources/historical documents to ignite pupils' innate “detective” instincts and engage them in solving historical problems. For middle/secondary school science teachers, educators and aids.

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At a recent social studies educators' conference, we listened attentively to the varied attempts of social studies educators to answer this important question: What teaching strategies are consistent with an aim toward education for democracy? The social studies specialists came from all regions of the United States. We listened as they brainstormed to come up with a list of teaching strategies. These included mock trials, debate, Socratic dialog, simulated congressional hearings, role-playing, cooperative learning, moral dilemmas, deep concept exploration, problem solving, research in public policy, hearings, good lectures, docudramas, and community resources. All of these ideas represent very good teaching and useful teaching strategies. Note, however, that not one social studies expert mentioned the use of primary sources. Written history is based on primary sources such as official documents, letters, diaries, oral histories, speeches, newspaper articles, and other archival materials.

This book seeks to resurrect history as an integral part of civic education. As social studies evolved into a broad field of study, history, as a subject, lost its central role. The study of history loses its importance when students do not realize that significant knowledge of the past is based on the interpretation of factual data. Knowing about the past gives meaning to the present and may give hints as to what will happen in the future.

How Do We Effectively Teach History?

How can history be taught effectively? That is the question! Should we lecture? David M. Kennedy and Michael Whelan assure us that a good story is a powerful way to help students learn. Kennedy, a Stanford University history professor who has written a well-known AP U.S. history textbook, states, "There is something innate in the human mind that makes the narrative form an especially attractive medium in which to contain, transmit, and remember important information." Whelan remarks, "If you are going to lecture, you had better make it memorable."

How often should we lead classroom discussions? Discussions of content help students formulate their thinking about history. How can we ensure that all students have an opportunity to participate in an informed way during discussions? How can we generate informed discussions that avoid opining and "blather," which are often the pitfalls of discussions?

When and how do we introduce students to primary sources? Primary sources offer a rich contextual understanding of the past. How can we help students analyze primary sources and make connections to a larger narrative of the past? How do we connect our teaching with national and state standards? How should we evaluate students' knowledge and understanding of history?

This book responds to these questions as we explore the following key elements of history instruction:

  • Student involvement in historical inquiry
  • The careful integration of primary sources and narratives in the teaching of history
  • Teaching toward chronological thinking and vital themes and narratives with historians' habits of mind
  • The use of historical documents to develop in students a detective approach to solving historical problems
  • The use of a systematic approach to improve students' historical thinking
  • The use of deliberative discussions, in a controlled setting, to develop a durable framework of historical knowledge
  • The use of practical means of evaluation to measure the level of students' learning

Teachers will be able to apply our ideas for selecting content, methods of instruction, and assessment of student learning. The methods we present in this book are a powerful means to develop students' understanding of history and their ability to use this knowledge in discussing issues past and present. These methods are not novel or magical, but they are useful and effective. This book emphasizes certain strategies that will help students know more about the past in ways that will help them in their lives today.

How Is This Book Organized?

This book comprises three parts. In part I, we describe the theoretical background to teaching history. In chapter 1, Teaching History, we deal with the present world situation in teaching history. We suggest a theme of freedom and provide interrelated questions you can pose to organize your history course. What are the meanings of freedom in the United States and in the world? What are the political conditions and social conditions that make freedom possible in the United States and in the world? What are the boundaries of freedom in the United States and in the world and how have they been reduced as well as expanded? Moreover, why is history important for your students? Why is historical inquiry important?

In chapter 2, The History of Teaching History, we describe the history of your profession. When, how, and why did history emerge as a subject for study in schools? We provide an overview of the circumstances that gave rise to the teaching of history in the early American experience, and we examine 20th century controversies surrounding history and the social studies. Why have history and social studies become contested areas in the curriculum?

In chapter 3, Historical Thinking, we establish an instructional and cognitive framework for your instructional strategies. What is historical thinking? Why is historical thinking important for all students?

In part II, Planning and Assessment, we emphasize that teaching involves organizing your courses and creating ways to assess what your students learn. In chapter 4, Organizing Your History Courses: Making Content Choices, we discuss chronological and Thematic organization for teaching history. How is such organization helpful?

In chapter 5, Lesson and Unit Planning, we offer suggestions for creating both lesson and unit plans in teaching history. How does long-range planning help students learn history? What are the common features of all lesson plans? How are unit plans developed?

In chapter 6, Creating Historical Understanding and Communication through Performance Assessment, we deal with the need to assess your students' knowledge, reasoning power, and effective use of communication in the setting of a history classroom. How can assessment go beyond the typical multiple-choice test? How can you create an effective authoritative rubric to share with your students?

In part III, Instruction, we focus on the use of primary sources, discussion, images, and writing in teaching history. In chapter 7, Using Primary Sources: The First-, Second-, and Third-Order Approach, we discuss typologies of primary sources, how to choose primary sources, and how to use an inquiry method in teaching history. Whereas chapter 3 provides a theoretical grounding for the first-, second-, and third-order approach, chapter 7 offers practical illustrations for you to use in the classroom. How can primary sources become an integral part of teaching and learning? How can primary sources be used effectively in teaching?

In chapter 8, Considering and Doing Discussion in History Teaching, we focus on deliberative discussions and the use of first-, second-, and third-order documents. How are deliberative discussions distinguished from other types of classroom discussions? How does the approach we suggest give your teaching an intellectual direction?

In chapter 9, Using Historical Images to Engage Your Students in the Past, we provide three teaching strategies to incorporate photographs and paintings in the teaching of history, among other strategies. How do visuals contribute to the teaching and learning of history? How can you involve students in actively analyzing images (rather than depending on you to do it for them)?

In chapter 10, Using Writing to Engage Your Students in the Past, we describe effective writing assignments related to teaching history. What strategies can you use to encourage writing in the history classroom? How does writing improve knowledge and understanding of historical content?

Our conclusion points to the need for good history teaching in the 21st century. We summarize the importance of history as a subject in the curriculum, the use of primary sources, and the value of deliberative discussion for developing lifelong learners. Above all, we hope that what follows will be useful as you begin your role as a scholar, teacher, and student of history and the social sciences.

What Are the Special Features?

Both the study of history and the teaching of history are multifaceted. Throughout this book we intersperse 25 Ideas for the History Classroom to help both new and experienced history teachers engage students in inquiry and discussions. We also provide teachers of methods courses with chapter-ending activities under the heading Translating History into Classroom Practice. These activities can be readily used in a History Education, Social Science Education, or Social Studies Education Methods course.

We make no pretense herein to cover all the best practices of a classroom teacher and methods teacher. We do, however, hope that our book engages new and experienced teachers in thoughtful discourse regarding the teaching and learning of history.

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