Question Detail

Looking for insight into history! I'm doing some research on the challenges associated with teaching history. My background is Communication/Performance Studies, and I am currently developing a white paper on how we might address the difficulties teachers, students, and administrators encounter in the history classroom. I have some potential solutions in mind, but first I want to ensure that I have properly identified the problem(s). Any thoughts from your first-hand perspective would be greatly appreciated!

Oct 17, 2014 1:46pm

  • Social Studies


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    • Oct 22, 2014 6:35am

      Thank you very much for your help with my question, Rosalyn. It is the students' need for relevancy, as you suggest, that is especially challenging, isn't it? Your strategies will be quite useful to me as well. I particularly am intrigued with the map-making activity! It's hands-on (kinesthetic) and spatial (visual). Then when you bring in the interdisciplinary elements, such as music and speech, Bloom's auditory learning domain is also satisfied. Wonderful ideas. I'm curious how you (and other history teachers) manage to do all of this meaningful instruction, which presumably gets the students enthused about history, and yet still manage to satisfy your state's need for standardized testing? (That's probably more of a rhetorical question, I guess.) Great thanks again for contributing, Rosalyn!

      • Feb 9, 2015 9:45am

        I see about 3400 K-12 students every year on field trips to our historic site. We have changed up everything we do because of the "history is boring" mantra. We use primary sources in nearly all of our programming -- history or environmental science -- and it's made all of the difference. The students experience maps, photos, documents, diaries, music and artifacts. The kids are interested and engaged. Last fall I had to cram an overview of the entire Civil War into 45 minutes for 250 kids (in batches of 25 at a time). I used all primary sources to do it. They loved it, even the kids who the teachers said were usually checked out participated and commented about how cool they thought the program was that day.

        • Nov 24, 2015 5:10pm

          Like Rosalyn mentioned, the biggest issue I've found with history is the "so what?" of it. From tutoring 5th graders to presenting at academic conferences for fellow historians, if your learner has no context of location or time period, they are going to be less interested. If your learner feels like a person or place is too foreign to relate to, they won't want to learn. Also, unless you directly state, "This has an impact on you because _____," most learners will think that a lesson might be interesting, but not relevant to them. Interdisciplinary approaches help - if a student is great with numbers, start with the economic side of the French Revolution. If they prefer art, include a section of famous work from a specific dynasty. Like Michelle said, get your hands on as many primary source documents as possible. The challenge of teaching history is to help students see that the events of the past shape the events of today in tangible, direct ways.