Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Mad Historian's Athenauem

I am doing a doubleheader with today's post. I am reviewing a book which I referenced earlier this week in my post on Causation. As you will quickly see, the colorful chart I used in that post is from this book.

Mandell, Nikki and Bobbie Malone. Thinking like a Historian: Rethinking History Instruction. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2007. 136 ppg.

            This book is a very interesting look at how to teach history in the K-12 classroom. I picked it up to add to my pile of information on teaching history. Unfortunately, most of that information is from sources focused on K-12. There is nothing wrong with that, except I am trying to develop a teaching and learning model for teaching history in community colleges. This book contains good information for doing so with the caveat that the content must be adapted to fit into community college teaching. The authors are educators which who have worked with other educators to construct a pedagogical model for use in K-12 in the state of Wisconsin. This is a very laudable goal. It also shows that the practices discussed in this book are not theoretical, but are practices in use in actual classrooms.

            They present their Thinking like a Historian framework through lessons tailored to specific grade levels throughout the book. The use of primary sources and secondary sources is made explicit in the lessons which show how this development in historical analysis has made deep inroads in history education. This is a very good thing and hopefully will eventually be the order of the day. Mandell and Malone have done a good job in taking elements of historical pedagogy and putting them together in a coherent framework. The chapters make good sense of these elements and have a solid way of presenting the information.

     The lessons were extremely useful in the development of the lessons I constructed to cover these same concerns in my own classes.  On the surface it sounds easy to build a lesson to get students to put historical thinking skills into play, but my experience in doing so has shown me that instructors have to literally build a survey course around the development of these skills. Students just do not have these skills developed in the K-12 institutions around my community college. That is where this book comes in really handy along with some others. I use a collaborative learning method to emphasize the development of these skills because that seems to promote active learning and get students to interact with each other in utilizing the skills.

            I especially liked the way they discussed the use of sources and what they are. Primary and secondary sources are absolutely vital to historical analysis. Understanding what they are and how to use is something that every instructor has to know. Not only that, they also need to be able to explain what these sources how and why they matter to students. Research has shown that when students are engaged with sources, they respond positively to them. In addition, the role of context has to be explained to them as well so that they can place the information from the sources within the historical context. Without this, the primary sources become information blobs that lack a coherent structure. All told, if you are going to be a K-12 history teacher, this book is a very worthy addition to your collection as well as guide to preparing lessons.

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