Friday, October 25, 2013

Part III - Challenges for the Teacher

Part III of Historical Thinking deals with problems teachers face in the history classroom and how they deal with them. Chapter 6 focuses on several high school history teachers with different personal social studies training and how they plays out in their classroom. One of the challenges for teachers, is simply understanding what history is, and what training does a historian have? This presents a problem as many history teachers do not have history backgrounds and makes teaching the past problematic when it is through the lens of some other discipline, such as anthropology or political science. Chapter 7 focuses on two different teachers, with different styles, one more teacher-centric and the other more student-centric, but both with effective styles. Both Price and Jensen's examples demonstrate how effective history teaching can be when it is engaging, meaningful and interesting to students, regardless of style, as long as it is part of the teacher's strength as a practitioner. Chapter 8 focuses on two different history teachers and the way they approach history in their classrooms. One more practical and experienced sees history as something to learn and the other, more enthusiastic and inexperienced who wanted the students to be able to do more history. Wineburg's analysis was designed to show how we assess not only student efficacy in a history class, but how we assess teacher efficacy. While the conclusions are left general, Wineburg is clearly pushing for a more nuanced, student-centered focus of thinking about history in new ways, rather than fact based regurgitation of information.

Questions to consider:
1. In considering the various backgrounds of history teachers, what professional development would be most appropriate for teachers new to history? How could teachers of history be better prepared to teach historical thinking? Does majoring in history in undergraduate or graduate studies make it easier or more difficult to teach history in high school?

2. What is the appropriate balance between teacher and student focused approaches? Is there a single answer that can fit all? If a teacher is exemplary as teacher centered approaches, do they have an obligation to develop more student-centered approaches, or should they just play to their strengths? What are the advantages and drawbacks of each?

3. What are the different ways that history should be assessed? If historical writing the most important product by students? How can other forms of assessment gauge a student's understanding of history, in the form of making claims and providing historical evidence to substantiate those claims?

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