Teaching Division 2002

During 2002 the Teaching Division launched or engaged with several projects that—in more ways than one—were related to the division’s responsibilities as set out in the AHA constitution, “to collect and disseminate information about the training of teachers and about instructional techniques and materials, and to encourage excellence in the teaching of history in the schools, colleges, and universities.”

First, the division worked to promote the Teaching American History (TAH) program, which is directed by the federal Department of Education (DOE). Reports about the first year of TAH project activities at four sites around the country were presented in a division-sponsored session during the 2003 annual meeting at Chicago.

Second, the division joined forces with the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to plan a conference entitled “Innovations in Collaboration.” The conference (held in Alexandria, Virginia, June 26–28, 2003) is intended to enable the showcasing and detailed discussion of 36 partnerships between schools on the one hand, and colleges, universities, museums, historical sites, state and federal governments, and the private sector on the other. It may be worth noting that some of the projects that received Teaching American History grants will also be featured in the conference.

Third, the vice president played a role in the creation and refining of a document spelling out “benchmarks” for professional development of history teachers. The document, which seeks to define the principles by which best practices in professional development can be determined, is based on discussions at a meeting held in August 2002 of historians from different institutions and representatives from the AHA, the OAH and the NCSS. Peter Stearns and Noralee Frankel are particularly to be thanked for carefully seeing this vital document (an electronic copy of which is available on the AHA’s web site at www.theaha.org/teaching/) through the several stages of its evolution.

Fourth, the division drafted a document (also available on the AHA web site) that is designed to help departments with reviews relating to accreditation of their teacher preparation programs. Such reviews are the result of the directive from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) that the content aspects of teacher preparation programs should also be reviewed, separate from the long-established review of pedagogical programs. NCATE assigned responsibility for the content reviews to the professional associations in specific subject areas—which in the case of history meant the NCSS. The AHA’s Teaching Division developed—with the help of many historians and social studies educators who have been involved in NCATE reviews (including Charles Ford of Norfolk State University, Tim Keirn of California State University at Long Beach, and Kathleen Steeves of George Washington University)—a list of “dos” and “don’ts” to guide departments seeking to demonstrate that their teacher preparation programs will meet the standards set out by the NCSS.

A noteworthy aspect of the review and accreditation process is that historians in colleges and universities not only come to work more closely with other communities within history education, but also to recognize that in the long run forging closer contact with schools, school teachers, and departments of education is extremely beneficial. The division extended its efforts (under the guidance of Peggy Renner) to bring more historians from two-year colleges into the AHA and to involve them in panels at the annual meeting.

Finally, noting that an increasing number of departments have been developing courses (sometimes called “gateway courses”) through which the discipline is introduced to students, the division launched (on the initiative of Ellen Furlough) a project to study such methodology courses for history majors. It is already evident (as three articles on the subject published in the September 2002 issue of Perspectives demonstrate) that in developing these courses departments are moving in different directions—ranging from theoretical discussions of philosophical issues to imJuly 9, 2007 3:51 PM the skills required to study history and write about it. In this project, we plan to explore these areas of teaching activity in greater detail, focusing on three kinds of methods courses—those for undergraduates, graduate students, and students training for a teaching credential. As a first step, the division invited historians (through a notice in the September 2002 issue of Perspectives) to submit syllabuses for such courses at the graduate level.

While thanking the members of the committee for all the work they put in during the year, I should add that we will miss the highly informed perspectives of John Pyne of West Milford, New Jersey, a leader of history teachers in his state and in the National Council for History Education whose term on the division has ended. We also record our appreciation of the energetic contribution made by Noralee Frankel of the AHA’s staff.

William Weber (California State University at Long Beach) is vice president of the Teaching Division.