Teaching Historiography: Debating Divergent Interpretations in an Introductory History Course
World History Association 2
It can be a challenge to teach students in an introductory level classroom, whether in high school or college, to grapple with conflicting opinions that are not their own. Many students willingly engage in debate and discussion when it involves their own opinions, but have a much harder time specifically identifying and explaining disagreement in the scholarship they encounter in class.
This practical panel aims to help teachers and their students practice historiography in a workshop setting. The workshop will start from a guiding question: To what extent are human actions determined by environmental factors?
We will suggest short secondary source readings accessible for high school students, provide a bibliography of more detailed scholarship for use by teachers, and lesson plans for presenting this material in class. Readings (with permissions), links to relevant resources, and lesson plans will be posted to a public wiki site: https://worldhistory2014aha.wikispaces.com/
In addition to inviting volunteers from the audience to model possible student responses to assignments in the lesson-plan, we will ask for specific suggestions for monographic readings that address other time periods and/or regions, then discuss how to adapt the model lesson. Both the panel and the wiki offer a platform for teachers to share their own suggestions, adaptations, and relevant materials. Through the wiki, the results of this conversation will be available to those who could not attend the panel in person.
Panelists are Sharon Cohen, Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD, an experienced teacher-trainer and AP history workshop facilitator; John McNeill, Georgetown University; and Laura Mitchell, University of California, Irvine. Both university professors have published work that makes different arguments about the extent to which environmental factors determine human actions; we will include examples of scholarship that clearly centers environmental determinism, putting divergent interpretations into dialog.
This workshop will directly address the historical thinking skill defined as “interpretation” in the revised Advanced Placement curriculum for all three history subjects (US, European, and world), though the skill is relevant for any history course. Our presentation will explicitly address needs for AP classrooms, strategies for developing this skill in on-grade-level high school classes, and high-enrollment college survey courses. Questions and contributions from the audience will shape the extent to which any one of these teaching arenas receives extended discussion.