OAH 2012: Thursday Review

Good evening from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the OAH conference!  Woke up this morning and was reminded of exactly where I am.  It was in the 30s this morning and only got into the 40s today. This Florida girl was cold!The registration this morning was busy but efficient!  The bags they always given away are appreciated.  Since my interests lay in teaching, naturally I am following along with the teaching track.  Thus, the first session I attended was:

Session 1: Reading and Writing Like Historians: Literacy in History Teaching

Chair: Bob Bain from the University of Michigan

Ben Hoffman, University of Maryland

Chauncey Monte-Sano, University of Maryland

Abby Reisman, Stanford University

This was an excellent session with very dedicated professionals with a deep interest in both education and history, but especially the combination or synthesizing of the two professions.  Dr. Bain opened the session discussing how “doing” history teaching is on an entirely different level than “doing” history.  What exactly are the tools that can be implemented to help teachers help student learn how to do history and historical thinking?  How do we teach the necessary critical thinking skill and assess it?

Dr. Monte-Sano and Ben Hoffman discussed their 3 year project on preparing 8th grade teachers to teach historical writing.  Their project revolved around implementing a three step process into document analysis associated with separate teacher coaching and education to help them understand the process themselves and how to teach it.  Monte-Sano and Hoffman wanted students to not only be able to pull the main idea out of a document, but to be able to form an opinion based on knowledge from the classroom and use these historical documents to support their opinion in a well-formed essay.  Definitely a higher level of critical thinking and organization for an 8th grade student.  Their project schools consisted of between 1200 – 1400 students, most of which were 2 grade levels below in literacy.  Their results were fascinating.  They shared essays that students had written after 3 “sessions” and then after 6 “sessions.”  The basic level readers had significant gains in their writing ability, including paragraph structure, documenting naming and use.  Monte-Sano and Hoffman presented two tools that they had the teachers use to coach their students: IREAD and “How to Write Your Essay.”

Next, Abby Reisman presented on teaching students to read history.  Her enthusiasm for her subject and work are unparalleled.  She challenged the audience to consider what are the precise things that we’re looking for the students to understand/gain and what do we want the end result to look like?  She discussed the evolution of school systems turning to the Common Core Standards (which 45 states have already adopted) and their positives and negatives for the history teacher.  One of the negatives is the deemphasis of the literacy in the historical/social studies sense.  They are essentially making it seem similar to general reading when in reality, we as historians and history teacher asks our students to look at different aspects such as the source and contextualization.

Dr. Reisman also challenged us to consider the documents we pick to teach with and offer to students.  Why are we picking that particular document?  What do I want the students to do with it/get from it/know at the end of the lesson?  It can be used as assessment or instructional.  What else would the student need to know to fully understand this document in a strictly knowledge sense?

She presented three types of comprehension in historical assessment: background knowledge, reading comprehension, and historical reasoning.  These three pieces come together to form a true historical analysis.  We can use texts as a way to analyze arguments because everything someone writes has some sort of argument.  What argument is the author making?  What type of supporting evidence did they use?  Is there anything they left out?  What point of view did they leave out?  What would you have written differently or added in?  We should not forget about using historical fiction as a possible teaching tool.  To get an oral component into the works, consider adding a debate at the end of a unit after analyzing numerous primary documents and potentially an essay have the students take sides.  Possibly rewrite their essay with information that they learned during the debate.

It is important to consider what the students themselves bring to the table in the classroom.  A major shift has occurred and is still occurring in some places to student-centered learning.  The students should always be at the center of lesson planning and not the other way around.

After an hour and a half lunch, it was on to Session 2: Teaching Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture in the Revised AP US History Course.  Presenters were Lawrence Charap from the College Board, Emma Lapsansky-Werner from Haverford College, and Ted Dickson from Providence Day School.

Lawrence opened the session by talking about the upcoming publication of the revised curriculum and framework for the AP exam.  The new curriculum will give teachers the flexibility to be able to go more in depth on topics of their choice while still keeping on track.  It will also be more focused on historical thinking skills- a bonus for any historian.

The new revised curriculum has 6 goals:

  • Maintain college credit and placement
  • Emphasize skills over memorization
  • Ease coverage pressure
  • Improve teacher flexibility
  • Include recent scholarship
  • Develop student thinking proficiency

The curriculum will focus on developing 5 historical thinking skills:

  • Crafting historical arguments from evidence
  • Chronological reasoning
  • Historical causation
  • Comparison and contextualization
  • Historical interpretation and synthesis

Not only will it focus on thinking skills, but also will revolve around 7 course themes that are easy to incorporate into any unit.

  • Work, Exchange, and Technology
  • Peopling
  • Ideas, Belief, and Culture
  • Politics and Power
  • America in the World
  • Environment and Geography
  • Identity

The College Board is also coming out with state alignment guides to align the AP curriculum/course with state standards and also a Common Core guide eventually.  For more information, please visit advancesinap.collegeboard.org/history

In addition to Lawrence’s talk, Drs. Lapsansky & Dickson presented a booklet of information and ideas to help integrate art, music, poems, and literature into the history curriculum to enhance the teaching of culture/belief and ideas.  Major ideas in teaching through art of all forms revolve around bias and context as well as the intended audience.  These are all aspects of “thinking historically” that ties so wonderfully back to the first session.  I will post more information on this in a later blog where I will look deeper into the Document Based Question (DBQ), analyzing images & historical documents, and teaching students how to do so.

The third session was a Roundtable: The Warfare State since the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately the moderator, Corey Robin from Brooklyn College & City College of New York Graduate School could not make it to the conference, but the three presenters, Michael Allen from Northwestern, Beth Bailey from Temple, and Fredrik Logevall from Cornell, introduced each other and survived the session beautifully.  They presented varying perspectives on the Vietnam War and its impact on the current government and opinion of war.

Tomorrow I will be attending the 8:30am session about Teaching with Objects.  Then I will be hitting up the 10:00am walking tour of Historic Milwaukee (expect pictures!) and a trip to the Public Museum to see the Cleopatra exhibit.  Then at 5pm we have the graduate student pub tour!  Busy day tomorrow!

If you want any more information on anything that I talked about here, let me know and I’ll get you what I can!