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Student Response:
The results described in “What is Learned in College History Classes” presents a major problem for historians and the discipline of history. In the study, Wineburg and his associates, attempt to measure students’ understanding of the past and how much students demonstrate mastery of the American Historical Association’s Tuning Project. I think Wineburg certainly describes the “threshold concept” because historical thinking is a particular type of reasoning and understanding of the past that is not a natural development in normal human development. Historical thinking requires one to “cultivate empathy for logics that we do not possess or share” (Sam Wineburg skype interview). This explanation would certainly qualify as even undergraduate history majors struggled with the historical thinking application.
Historians across the entire discipline need to radically re-think how the past is presented to students and the public at large. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on asking the proper questions and presenting artifacts within the proper context. This is true both in and outside the classroom. Contextualizing each artifact or having students actually pause and think through the sourcing of a document is an essential part of really understanding that document. Professionals in the museums, archives, and libraries and teachers in the classroom need to develop tools and guidelines for helping students (scaffolded to an age range) start reading historical documents in a contextualizing and sourcing manner. Teachers and professionals should be intimately aware of how to help students “troubleshoot” a difficult document by asking framing and scaffolded questions to build towards developing an intrinsique number of questions every student and the public should ask when examining an artifact or reading about a historical event.
The advantage of presenting evidence “piecemeal” is that Wineburg (and other teachers and professional historians) are able to better assess and gauge students understanding of a particular document or singular event. Wineburg notes in “What is Learned in College History Classes,?” that analytical essays are “blunt instruments” (Wineburg, 894). This presents a significant problem in assessing students’ historical thinking skills as entire essays represent the culmination of many historical thinking processes and skills. By presenting information and formatively assessing, students understanding using one document or 2 at a time, historians can more accurately gauge students’ grasp of a particular skill - whether it be in sourcing a document, analysis, or contextualizing that document within the larger historical framework. This also gives students more opportunities to practice certain skills and historians more options to present specific feedback to students to improve their understanding and practice with historical thinking.
Your Comment:
Hannah - I found your connection of the problems of students attaining the threshold concept with the possibility of not understanding the past as fully strange, particularly apt. In the video interview of Wineburg, he ends with the idea that historical thinking requires historians to cultivate an empathy for logics that we do not possess or share." This connects with the problem scenario of Derek using his preconceptions of the past to arrive at false visions of battles in the American Revolution. I think that you can be more persuasive in your ideas about using Wineburg's "piecemeal" approach, I don't think that it could possibly work, I think that it will work. More focused practice by students with close observation or oversight by the historian/teacher would give more opportunities for guided learning of historical thinking skills (like sourcing, for example), more opportunities to address where students misapplied a skill, and more opportunities to demonstrate their growth. This scaffolding approach will help cement the technique before synthesizing several documents into broader understandings demonstrated in analytical essays.
Content: 472,244
Student Response:
Like Sam Wineburg, Stephane Levesque clearly aligns with the idea of the “threshold concept” in learning history. In order for students to really understand the past, they must learn two different types of thinking: 1) the content knowledge and 2) the central knowledge, the knowledge of how to do research and putting pieces of disparate evidence together. Levesque understands that this disciplinary approach toward students learning requires inherently specified knowledge, developed through education in those methods.
Wineburg places stronger weight on assessment and students’ ability to demonstrate mastery of the skills of professional historians. Wineburg expects that students should notice more or less similar outcomes and connections when presented with the same historical evidence. While Levesque reasons that a more diverse set of conclusions can be drawn from the same evidence.
Levesque’s emphasis on experiential learning not only gives more ownership to students of their own learning but allows for greater possibility of variant conclusions and interpretations. This provides students with a more authentic learning experience and authentic historical debate as historians today do not completely agree with other historians about the historical narrative. Such is the nature of the profession.
Your Comment:
I find that Wineburg and Levesque's approach to having students learn the thought process and skills of the historian quite similar as well but think that their "piecemeal" and "experiential learning" approaches are not all that different. Both techniques can be used in a year-long course. The teacher can give both opportunities for the "piecemeal" approach (to develop specific skills and targeted practices) and provide opportunities for "experiential learning" with differentiation and independent learning projects.
Content: 472,256
Student Response:
Dr. Lendol Calder’s video highlights his views on students really engaging with the artifacts of history. Like Wineburg and Levesque, Calder emphasizes the idea of “history as form of inquiry.” He represents Wineburg’s “piecemeal” approach with a 6 question/modes for students to work though as they study to “uncover” the past. But he also borrows heavily from Levesque’s work in that students’ individual experiences and analysis shape how they see the past. By studying the past with more freedom to ask individual questions, more meaningful sense of the past will be uncovered.
Calder draws much meaning of the past to inform on the future. In this sense, museums and their exhibitions ought to make strong connections across time. A broad theme or historical question about recent events or contemporaneous issues needs to be the focus of the exhibit. Historical events across time and place serve as “case studies” or historical references to teach the public about those specific historical developments but also to ask the public to make connections to present time through guiding questions. This approach clearly aligns toward Calder’s attempt to make the case of history as having a moral meaning.
Your Comment:
"The students who do the work, do the learning." I'm not quite sure who first said this but its essentially what Wineburg, Levesque and Calder all believe. This quote is also what your approach to a Calder-based exhibit essentially is. I like this idea of having students curate the exhibit. Activities could be made where students must remove or rearrange the exhibit to arrive at different conclusions. Or have the exhibit be set up to complete in a different order to arrive at different conclusions. This element would have more stability from the museum's point of view while still questioning a traditional narrative of that historical event and align with Calder's approach.
Content: 472,272

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