Publication Date

September 1, 1994

As America's high schools have begun to introduce the study of world history, teachers often have found themselves unprepared because university history departments have not offered such courses for generalists; nor have they taught world, rather than Western, history. Responding to this gap in teacher preparation, the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded support to an extraordinary dialogue now underway in Philadelphia.

Twenty college professors from twelve colleges and universities have joined with twenty high school teachers from public urban and suburban schools, private schools, and the Archdiocesan parochial schools of Philadelphia to explore ways to teach world history in universities. During the two-year NEH-funded project, participants will meet regularly to consider issues of content, concept, and skills; the sequencing of learning between (and within) schools and universities; the mentoring of intending teachers; the use of museum resources; various methods of assessment; and the use of historical thinking in all aspects of life and in helping students form personal values. The university and high school teachers will meet together to read and discuss primary texts, interpretations, and textbooks; visit one another's classrooms; discuss museum resources with museum curators; and work in small groups to analyze and construct curricular materials.

Many of the project participants as well as the project director, Howard Spodek, have previous experience grappling with the issues involved in teaching world history. From 1987 through 1991, a very large collaborative project sponsored by the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Alliance for Teaching Humanities in the Schools (PATHS) brought together fifty university professors with one hundred high school history teachers. First, the university faculty helped the teachers gain an up-to-date understanding of world history and its historiography; then, the teachers redesigned their high school world history course. The result was a new curriculum in the school district and many revitalized teachers.

The current project transposes the process, bringing in high school teachers to advise college professors about the needs of future teachers. The new project is not intended to produce a standardized curriculum; rather, the goal is that each professor find new ways of teaching world history. The ideas generated through the project may be shared beyond Philadelphia through publications and, perhaps, summer seminars after the project concludes.

The project, "World History: Teacher Preparation through University-High School Collaboration," began in October. The first session was devoted to sharing curricular experiences, a topic that generated lively discussions about interactive teaching techniques and issues of content versus process in teaching. The group's work will continue through June 1995. Updates on the continuing dialogue will be published periodically in the World History Bulletin.

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