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The Historical Method Building Student Understanding of the Past An Introduction © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE.

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Presentation on theme: "The Historical Method Building Student Understanding of the Past An Introduction © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Historical Method Building Student Understanding of the Past An Introduction © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

2 This presentation is for educational purposes only and contains copyrighted material. Please do NOT post, redistribute, or copy without the permission of the author or Dr. Kevin Brady at AIHE. © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

3 The examples, documents, and many of the images used to illustrate this presentation come from CICERO: History Beyond the Textbook. You can sign up for a free trial of this incredible supplement by visiting and sign up for the free trial.

4 The Goal To help students begin to systematically gain knowledge about the past, critically think about the past, and construct a personal interpretation of the past. In essence the goal is to impart the ability of students to become lifelong learners in history.

5 Richard Hofstadter …what animates the most feverishly committed historians is that our continual rediscovery of the complexity of the social interests, the variety of roles and the motives of political leaders, the unintended consequences of political actions … may give us not only a keener sense of the structural complexity of our society in the past but also a sense of the moral complexity … Wood, Gordon (2008). The Purpose of the Past. New York, New York. Penguin Press. © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

6 Theory Behind the Historical Method The Foundations of Building Historical Understanding © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

7 The Love-Hate Relationship  We see history and social studies as CRITICAL  Others see it as an Albatross  Math, Science, & Reading are the crown jewels  Students see history as a result and not a process  Names, dates, disconnected events  Do not have the mental schema to “learn” history  Other students “get” history © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

8 Knowing Too Much  Teachers love to continually learn  That is why we are HERE today  There is a disconnect between teacher learning and student learning  We learn differently than the students  We cannot transfer our knowledge to students in the same way that we gained it  Trying to do so ends in frustration for everyone  Is it about teaching or student learning?

9 Personal Experience  My own TAH grant and the Civil War  Teaching the Civil War afterwards  Lack of transfer from my knowledge-base to the students

10 Going Over to the Enemy  Math  - monkey see, monkey do  Teach a skill, practice it, drill it, master it  Teach another skill that builds on the previous  Creates a spiraling effect  The question:  Could history be served with a series of skills that build upon each other?

11 Gordon S. Wood We Americans have such a thin and meager sense of history that we cannot get too much of it. What we need more than anything is a deeper and fuller sense of the historical process, a sense of where we have come from and how we became what we are. Wood, Gordon (2008). The Purpose of the Past. New York, New York. Penguin Press. © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

12 Where This Leaves Us  Problem:  Students do not have the interest or mental schema to “learn” history  Teacher knowledge and student learning are disconnected in many ways  Proposed Solution:  Create a series of skills that build on each other  Develop a system that utilizes the skills in everyday classroom activities  In essence a historical method or historical process © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

13 Building Step by Step The Historical Method is built on utilizing twelve discreet historical skills The twelve skills are divided into three major steps Each step serves as a foundation for those that come afterward The steps build from the broadest and more general to the more specific © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

14 Tier 1 Building a Foundation to Acquire Historical Knowledge Tier 2 Analyzing and Evaluating Historical Material Tier 3 Context and Interpretation of the Past A Scaffolded Approach © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

15 Problems With the Historical Method and Historical Thinking Roadblocks to Building Student Understanding © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

16 Historical Thinking is Unnatural  Goes against the grain of the way that we ordinarily think  We are taught to see a harmony between past and present  The next slides are an example of how we are taught to see the harmony between the past and the present. Yerxa, Donald (Ed.). (2008). Historical Thinking: Historians in Conversation. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

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24 Historical Thinking is Foreign  Too many students see the study of history as amassing information and not as a way of thinking or being.  Many teachers continue to treat History as a compilation of facts, dates, events, and people  Because that is the way they were trained Yerxa, Donald (Ed.). (2008). Historical Thinking: Historians in Conversation. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

25 Historical Thinking is Hard  Historical reasoning should create a kind of caution where the mind does not automatically leap to conclusions or emotional reactions  Have to get rid of the notion of a fundamental, timeless past  Must focus on context, change, continuity, and meaning Yerxa, Donald (Ed.). (2008). Historical Thinking: Historians in Conversation. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

26 The Ability to Systematically Reason Thinking Like a Historian © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

27 Where do the pieces fit? The History Jigsaw © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

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30 Seeing the Larger View of History  Determining the main idea of a selection or work of history  Establishing time, scope, and sequence in which the events of an era take place  Eliminating things that are not essential to focus on essential understandings © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

31 The Big Picture: Underpinnings of Revolution Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right... Wherever the power, that is put in... hands for government of the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny..." John Lock- Natural Rights Philosopher "The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered." Edmund Burke in his speech to Parliament on American Taxation, April 1774 "Why stand we here idle? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" Patrick Henry - Speech in Virginia Convention March 1775 From CICERO Unit 4 Birth of Liberty, At a Glance, Birth of Liberty Quotes

32 Building a Personal and Intimate Connection to the Past  Seeking personal or local connections to history whenever possible  Seeing history as the story of people and their voice rather than dry and disconnected events © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

33 Who is this man? Captain Joseph Creighton Byers Commander of Company “B”, 34 th North Carolina Infantry, the “Sandy Run Yellow Jackets” He is my great, great, great grandfather © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

34 “As I walked, crouched low, an enemy machine gun, or burp gun, opened up at me, missing me but kicking up dust at my feet. Some of my men I found dead. Later, I called for our artillery to fire toward our front, where I thought the enemy was. After many rounds, I stopped it. Not wanting to expose many more men to the enemy, I ordered Sgt. Byers and his squad of four or five men to penetrate beyond our lines to test the enemy after our artillery shelling quit. It was with great shock that word come that the enemy was still very much active and had opened up machine gun fire, killing Sgt. Byers. The rest of the squad made it back to safety. This was a hard jolt for me. In another field we had several wounded men who could not get out due to enemy fire.” * © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE * From “Between the Hedgerows” the memoir of Captain Marcus Smith, CO Company K, 120th Infantry

35 © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

36 From CICERO Unit 4 Birth of Liberty, Obituaries

37 Avoiding the lure of Historical Presentism  Establishing the values and beliefs of the time as a lens to analyze the past  Using the values of the time to analyze historical meaning rather than those from the 21 st century  Compare and contrast the values of the past with those of the present © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

38 The Confederate Battle Flag How do our 21 st -century values hinder a historical understanding of this image? © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

39 From CICERO Unit 4 Birth of Liberty, Primary Sources, and Heroes How do present values hinder our study of this statement? Judging from a 18 th - century perspective, how should we view this statement?

40 Analyzing and Utilizing Multiple Historical Sources  Analysis of primary sources to study history “in the raw”  Determination of bias and unique point of view of historical sources  Establishing and assessing the reliability of historical sources  Utilizing primary and secondary sources as companion material to the textbook © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

41 How do we see colonial bias and point-of-view in these four declarations from the Stamp Act Congress? From CICERO Unit 4 Birth of Liberty, Primary Sources

42 The soldiers are all being ordered to fire by their commander. From the testimony at the trial, we know that the firing was not ordered. How reliable is this source? From CICERO Unit 4 Birth of Liberty, Powerpoints

43 The soldiers were positioned outside the Custom’s House. The sign in the picture refers to the building as “Butcher’s Hall”.

44 The crowd is shown unarmed and defenseless. In fact, the crowd threw snowballs and many carried clubs.

45 Keeping the BIG Picture in mind Looking for a personal connection to the past Avoiding Presentism Analyzing multiple sources © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

46 Where this Leaves Things o Using the four skills students can begin to acquire knowledge for themselves o They can avoid some of the more common pitfalls o They can start to contextualize o They see the past as varied, vibrant, and unique o They can use and are familiar with multiple types of sources © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE

47 Other Info © 2009 R. Brown & 2010 AIHE If you have any questions, comments, things you want to see added to the sight, or just want to yell at me, you can contact me at:


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