KelseyR's Response

1. A “threshold concept” is an essential idea or skill that masters of a subject must learn in order to understand their chosen field, subject, or profession. Lévesque discusses how students are not introduced to these threshold concepts in the classroom which makes it difficult to make sense of the past. These students are never taught how to appropriately understand various claims made about the past. Textbooks, teachers, and other sources have already done all of the research and historical thinking for the students. Therefore, the students are being given that specific narrative and told to just memorize that. Lévesque argues that students need to be introduced to these disciplinary concepts used to write articles, textbooks, and procedures that led to the crafting of these historical claims being made. The reading also points out that these threshold concepts and skills needed to think historically take time and intensive energy to teach students.

2. Lévesque and Wineburg both argue that scholars have failed to teach and prepare students to use the methods of research needed to understand the discipline of history. The history that students are currently being taught is presented in a type of narrative where they do not have to use historical thinking skills to learn or question the discipline. Both authors argue that the lack of knowledge on these “threshold concepts” leads to students misunderstanding of the past. Lévesque argues that it is the importance placed on content in the classroom that causes students to lack the understanding of how different sources must be utilized to get to the conclusion historians have reached. On the other hand, Wineburg argues that students misunderstanding of the past comes from their modern biases that they cannot help but place on their studies of the past. Historians and scholars have learned how to prevent their own biases on the past using skills they have learned. However, he argues that students are not being taught these crucial skills for avoiding putting their modern bias and knowledge onto the past leading to a skewed narrative of history. Lévesque offer solutions as to how the discipline should be taught but that the implementation of these changes take time. I would argue that Wineburg does not necessarily give an answer or solution to a new approach. Lévesque wants to completely revamp the discipline while Wineburg wants small changes to happen but does not provide a solution to the problem.

3. Experiential learning is all about students learning and “doing” history. This type of hands-on approach to learning can lead to multiple different conclusions by a variety of students. If a student is given the opportunity to research and interact with primary and secondary sources, they are able to conduct their own research on the subject. If a student is simply given a textbook with a specific narrative, they are only going to absorb some of that information without thinking historically or critically about it. As graduate students, we are constantly partaking in experiential learning. We are constantly researching and utilizing primary and secondary sources to argue certain claims about our chosen speciality. Students come to different conclusions based on the type of sources they have used. This variety of conclusions helps the discipline as a whole to see different perspectives on the past.


HannahK said:

I completely agree with your statement on how we, as graduate students, are engaged in experiential learning. We are art historians and historians in training and we are constantly "doing" history. But this skill was not taught in primary school and was something I did not learn until I went to college and was blindsided because I was not skilled in thinking critically and asking questions to draw my own interpretation. Experiential learning is extremely important and should be taught to children consistantly and over a long period of time. This will encourage students to become strong, independent thinkers, which will help the discipline of history and also ultimately will help the students in many other aspects of life.