In a broad sense, this case study has critical implications on how teachers and researchers should go about developing the document-based learning approach (and, for that matter, practically any other teaching approach or strategy). Even this small sampling of student feedback gave incredibly informative and impactful information regarding the effectiveness of DBL in the classroom, and the same information simply could not have been obtained without intentionally giving students a voice in their own learning. Accordingly, this project suggests that student surveys, and other opportunities for student feedback, are vital to making education as powerful as possible. Teachers should seek out such feedback in their own classrooms, and researchers should develop more studies which look into student experiences with DBL and with other approaches and strategies in all subjects.
Suggestions for Further Research
Considering this study’s implication that more research is necessary to better understand student experiences with DBL, here are some suggestions for directions that such research may take in the future:
- Are students who find DBL “easy and quick” engaging deeply and critically enough in the process of historical thinking? How can teachers challenge students (whether the whole class or differentiated groups) to interact with DBL more deeply and/or independently (by decreasing the amount of guided questions or asking students to find their own sources, for example)?
- Does increasing the variation (in length, in document type, etc.) in DBL have a noticeable or significant effect on student perceptions of and engagement in document-based lessons?
- How does student awareness of the particular objectives and vocabulary of DBL affect student performance, including student confidence and success in suggesting and debating their own historical conclusions?
- How do student perceptions of DBL compare to their performance in using historical thinking skills and expressing content knowledge in formative and summative assessments? How does student knowledge of historical thinking vocabulary compare with their ability to actually employ historical thinking skills?
- How do student experiences with document-based learning compare among different demographics (public/private, urban/rural, ethnically/racially diverse, different age groups, etc.)?