As a student and future teacher of history, I have a vested interest not only in knowing historical content and mastering historical thinking skills, but also in effectively promoting the achievements of the same accomplishments by my future students. Part of the road to accomplishing this is developing inquiry into different pedagogical strategies, including those which are new but growing in the field of history education. Furthermore, as I have discovered through this project, the most effective inquiry involves both a review of current research and professional development on a topic, and personal observations and analysis of that topic in a real classroom setting. Theory and practice work hand in hand, illuminate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and, together, provide an impetus for the continuing development and improvement of history education and of education in general.
In the spring semester of 2016, I developed an inquiry into one particular initiative in history education: document-based learning. Long a staple in Advanced Placement history curricula, the idea of using document-based lessons in a variety of contexts has recently begun to pick up steam. Acknowledging the traditionally dry, lecture-, textbook-, and fact-driven nature of high school history classrooms, I wanted to know how history educators are (or are not) using historical documents to promote redefined, student-centered learning which emphasizes the building of historical skills as well as the development of content knowledge.
To this end, I developed a two-part study of document-based learning in history education, the findings of which I share on this website. First, I researched the history of the document-based learning approach, and reviewed existing studies and resources about what document-based learning looks like in non-AP contexts. Second, I developed and conducted my own small case study on a tenth-grade United States History classroom, using questionnaires and in-class observations to explore student responses to document-based learning experiences in a non-AP context. This website presents my findings as Phase One of my study. I hope to continue the project as a preservice teacher and as I begin my teaching career, conducting a deeper investigation into document-based learning and student responses to it.
I also presented this study at the Annual Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies in Washington, D.C. in December of 2016.
All images on this page courtesy of the Library of Congress.