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Though I am a part-time instructor, not a history department chair, I am writing to comment on the eloquent report "The Next Generation of History Teachers."
"The Next Generation" is a wonderful report, and I certainly support most of its recommendations, but I would submit that its failure to address the contingent faculty issue is a major oversight.Â In my view, growing use of adjunct teachers has restructured college history instruction in a way likely to complicate "The Next Generation's" goals.
First off, in some schools (especially community colleges) "history departments" no longer exist, because history courses are service requirements taught by ranks of part-timers.Â At a community college where I teach, history comes under a "behavioral sciences" division that employs a single very junior-status full-time historian, while adjuncts cover the majority of history classes.Â The arrangement is commonplace, though community colleges are an important training ground for future teachers, especially among at-risk groups. Â How might "The Next Generation" be adapted to this setting?
Secondly, even at the four-year level (especially public schools), the conditions of part-timers' work leave them without the resources to press the "new pedagogy" of "doing history" recommended by the report, although many history adjuncts heroically do some of that on their own already.Â The history department at a four-year school where I also teach already has a splendid teacher training program that addresses many of "the Next Generation's" pedagogical issues.Â Yet, adjuncts at this school (who number many more than full-time faculty and teach nearly all introductory history classes) are excluded from pedagogical discussions.Â Isn't this typical?Â To fulfill "The Next Generation's" objectives, shouldn't history departments be encouraged to better integrate part-timers into the specialized history teacher training that "The Next Generation" advocates?
A colleague on the Joint AHA-OAH Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment has called the part-time faculty issue higher education's "elephant in the room."Â In "The Next Generation of History Teachers," that much-ignored animal seems very big, indeed.Â Surely, any discussion of the training of future history teachers has to come to terms with the dramatic way in which adjunct instruction has reshaped the delivery of college history courses.
Being sympathetic to "The Next Generation's" goals, I would humbly suggest greater attention go to the burgeoning effect of contingent instructors on the training of future history teachers, and to way that history departments and college programs might better support and use adjunct instructors to meet "The Next Generation's" objectives.
Donald W. Rogers, Ph. D.
Member, Joint AHA-OAH Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment
Adjunct History Instructor, Central Connecticut State University
This is truly a step in the right direction. As an undergraduate history major who went on to teach high school world history, I was poorly prepared to teach my students the art of document analysis. I studied in an excellent department at a large state university but classes, even at the senior level were huge. I had one real history seminar in my final semester and it was there that I realized how little I knew about how to do history. Today I work in a department of teaching and learning preparing pre-service history teachers and I find that it is crucial to focus as much on what it means to understand history as I do on actual content. Finally, the British are way ahead of us in that they have reformed their K-12 history curriculum around building student understanding of historical epistemology, empathy, significance and so forth. As a reform strategy, this is a route that allows us to minimize attacks from the right. Granted, many conservatives do not like the idea that K-12 students will learn to interpret sources and think critically, but by framing the argument around teaching disciplinary methods we can maybe broaden the appeal a little.
- As a lifelong social studies/history educator who has written one of the standard 'methods' texts in the field, I would VERY much like to comment on this marvelous breakthrough by AHA and OAH in terms of recognizing a common problem in preparing new teachers of history. Some of your suggestions and worries are right on the mark, but others strike me as reinventing a wheel almost all social studies educators who belong to NCSS college faculty groups have dealt with for decades. Why not learn from each other anew? I am willing to present on a panel or individually at at forthcoming AHA and OAH event and I have a great deal to say about your initiative. Please contact me. Thanks, and best of luck, Jack
- I have always loved history but as a current undergraduate History Education major, I have been introduced to many new concepts of the discipline such as the job of the historian, historical thinking as well as methods in order to have my students "do" history in the future. I have observed many high school history classes and found that most teachers are happy to stick with the traditional lecture, teacher centered format. I have also found that the teachers who try get their students to think outside of the box take a risk in getting their students to actually think about history. Often times, many of their activities are overlooked by their colleagues and not recognized by the administration because of the standards that need to be met. However, because of these traditional techniques, I don't believe the discipline of history is as valued as it should be.
So, as this article suggests, it is imperative to reform the profession and from personal experience, I would argue that this reform begins with the work of the faculty in various History Departments across the country. I have been given wonderful mentors in my university's history department who work very hard to share their passion for the subject and stress such things as historiography and historical thinking as the core to our teaching in the future. I have attempted to do some of these things in my own pre-student teaching experiences and have found success so I hope other soon see the message of this article as well.
- I appreciate some of what is being said in "The Next Generation of History Teachers." However, the field of History, like English, stand as some of the last real disciplines in Academia. I am very familiar with the "Education" field and their many psychological ideas and or theories about self or self-theories; although they seem to be on the cutting edge of learning, they are groping in the dark. They spend so much time theorizing that they typically lack the real substance that can be gained by disciplines, such as history, that consider rote memorization as quintessential for knowledge. Be careful about being wooed by the "Education" departments. Consider reading a book called "The Conspiracy of Ignorance: The failure of American Public Schools" by Martin L. Gross. It touches the field of History, graduate school, and the influence of the field of Education, with its unsubstantial theories of learning. The case studies are very tellings. So, please don't move in a direction that will put the History discipline in that of the Pseudo-polished "Education" program.
- One of the most important points made in this document is the following:
"We believe that the changes historians undertake should be departmentally focused, institutionally tailored, and community minded."
One of the challenges of the current educational climate is the overwhelming push toward conformity to meet state standards for both our students becoming teachers (pre-service teachers) and for K-12 students being taught by in-service teachers.
The most limiting factor that currently faces most K-12 teachers is that many state standards emphasize the facts and dates approach to only a surface understanding of history and do not, in reality, allow time for teachers to even attempt developing the historical thinking skills of their students. One way to easily illustrate this challenge is to put the term "history pacing guides" into any online search engine and see how much those who are not specialists in history have tied the hands of those trying to teach the students that will someday be in our classrooms. Some school districts literally dictate what page a teacher should be covering (note that it's a page number and not necessarily an historical topic) on any given day. They do not even have time to consider taking advantage of "teachable moments" that present themselves when students actually inquire about a subject at a deeper level. Instead, teachers have no choice but to move forward through a massive amount of material so that their students are "ready" for the state assessments.
One of the strengths and also weaknesses of No Child Left Behind is that it allows each state, in addition to determining its state standards, to interpret what it means to have "highly qualified teachers" in classrooms throughout the state. Even when a teacher is qualified to teach "social studies," that often still undercuts the teaching of any history or historical thinking skills because of the limited number of required courses in either history content or historical methodologies required for any particular state's teaching license.
This also points to something else worthy of our discussion. Both the AHA and the OAH have "ceded the territory" of standards to the NCSS. While NCSS has its strengths, history is only specific to one of its _ten_ themes that are often translated into state standards throughout the country.
Furthermore, when one of the most powerful professional associations that accredits teacher education programs throughout the nation decided to partner with the specialty professional organizations, it was NCSS that joined the team to evaluate teacher education programs in history throughout the nation. As someone who has been involved in NCSS program reviews, they have a much more humane approach than some state departments of education that do not have agreements with NCSS. Having said that, however, it is still important for historians to at least attempt to have a greater voice in the training of future history teachers and to at least attempt to reclaim some of this ceded territory.
This also underscores another important point brought home by the Teaching American History grant program. We should be more than 'talking heads' who, as Professor Laura Westhoff puts it, "parachute in" to work with teachers and leave just as quickly. Instead, we should use the opportunities provided by TAH to establish professional partnerships that endure beyond Senator Byrd's lifetime so that we not only learn more about teaching history from those who do it every day all day in their classrooms but so that we can benefit each other in both our professional knowledge and opportunities for professional interaction - whether we are talking about the historical discipline itself or history education.
As professional historians, it is up to us to take stock of where our programs stand and decide where to go next rather than letting those who are not as specifically interested in history and history education decide it for us. And, while this may never impact faculty in history departments at larger institutions, those of us who teach in departments that it directly impacts would certainly appreciate our colleagues standing with us to protect the future of our discipline.
The next step is the most important and the recommendations listed for consideration on page 7 provide excellent discussion points for any Department of History.
Kelly A. Woestman
The Next Generation of History Teachers is a terribly important report. At a time when many high school students rank history as "their most boring subject" all of us who are historians need to do all we can to ensure that the K-12 teaching of history is informed, academically robust, lively and engaging as well as well-connected to democratic civic engagement. The key to all of that is for History Departments to take on a larger role. At the same time, as I listen to some of the discussions about this report I think it is essential to keep focused. As important as other issues are, this is not a report about improving the teaching of history at the college level or changing the reward structures in higher education. Addressing these and other valuable things may follow. But I believe we will get there best by keeping the conversation clearly focused on the one question that is central to the report--What can historians do to improve the preparation of future history teachers? Thank you authors for moving us in this direction.
- The proposals of the White Paper, (The Next Generation of History Teachers), as revolutionary as they are; are long overdue. The teachings of the individual primary and secondary history teacher are far more important to society than that of the individual university history professor. A simple look at the numbers bears this out. Looking at the number of US citizens who never attend college; much if not all of their historical knowledge comes from the primary and secondary history teacher. In addition, the numbers of students who attend college and are not seeking a history degree will still receive much of their historical knowledge from the primary and secondary history teacher, due to the limited amount of history requirements at much of the nation's universities. In light of this it is imperative that the schools of higher learning throughout the nation who prepare our future educators of history should, (in the humble opinion of this history teacher); seriously consider the proposed changes made within White Paper. It is time for the university history departments throughout the United States to take some responsibility for the history education of the citizens of this great nation.
Teacher of Middle School Students
Two years ago, I separated students preparing for graduate programs in history and those students desiring to teach K12. Our program has three tracks: B.A. in History; B.A. in Social Studies; and Certification in Social Studies.
The B.A. in Social Studies includes courses in U.S. History, World History, Psychology, Sociology, Geography, Political Science, Anthropology, and Economics; all those courses a new graduate and teacher may be required to instruct in any social studies department/program.
I supervise and perform classroom observations, as a full-time faculty in history, the student teachers in middle/secondary schools regarding our B.A. in Social Studies. Also, I teach an AP U.S. History course four days a week in a local high school.
Our program of two full-time faculty has currently 70 majors: 34 history; 15 social studies; and 8 certification. The remaining are minors or have designed a personal major related to the field of history. I maintain an Excel spreadsheet that labels each of these 70 majors. Also, our Office of Admissions upon an inquiry or admission, notifies me immediately of the information.
I was in the field of interpretation for about seven years, during which time I often conducted interpretive programs on the history of Padre Island, southeast of Corpus Christi, TX. While I had always had an interest in world history, as my knowledge of the island grew, so did my fascination with local history. For me, I found the best way to teach my audiences about the local history was to replicate it as closely as possible and to involve them as intimately as possible.Â One of my favorite programs, and a popular one with the public, was one in which I tried to teach about the local stone-age native American cultures prior to the arrival of Europeans to the area. This I did by taking everyday natural objects I found on the beaches and in the grasslands and setting them out on a picnic table on our deck (I wish I could have done it in the dunes to make it more realistic, but I would have lost a part of my audience to the south Texas sun) and simply started to make tools and jewelry out of them as the native Americans did (based on my studies of local archeological artifacts).Â Usually I did not announce my program, I just started to work and people would come over to see what I was doing. I would then give them some simple objects and ask them to make something from them. The people were intrigued by the challenge and usually became fascinated by what they or I could make. Of course, I kept a close eye on them to be certain they did not do anything unsafe or got stone chips, etc. in their eyes.Â Sitting there with them gave me the opportunity to talk very informally with them and to tell them about the native American cultures of the area.Â And as I would explain to the visitors, the way they were learning to make tools was exactly the same way the native Americans would have:Â sitting in a small group in informal talk with a more experienced teacher or by trial and error.Â I would really like to see more museums, schools, what have you take this very informal, very intimate, yet I believe highly effective type of program to quickly immerse the audience in the culture being taught as quickly as possible.
Last updated: January 22, 2010 3:47pm
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