Teaching Future Teachers: Why Historians Matter to Pre-service Teacher Education

AHA Session 133
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Nassau West (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Amy Rutenberg, Iowa State University
Jill Abney, University of Southern Mississippi
Elizabeth Bellows, Appalachian State University
Kevin Caprice, Ricky Mullins, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech
Jeffery D. Nokes, Brigham Young University
Gabriel A. Reich, Virginia Commonwealth University

Session Abstract

Almost all of us who teach history at the college level have grumbled to ourselves, “why don’t my students know [insert supposedly obvious thing they should have learned in high school]?” There are many answers to this question. This roundtable will target one – the disconnect many pre-service teachers feel between their college-level history courses and their future careers as secondary history teachers – and look for solutions.

Panelists will begin with the supposition that most middle- and high-school teachers choose what to teach based on two considerations. The first is their state and district’s curriculum requirements. The second is what they, the teachers, deem important. They structure their lessons around the skills, concepts, and facts they are most comfortable teaching, in which they are most interested, or that they think will most interest their students. So, if students at the secondary level are to learn anything about history beyond a chronological litany of names, dates, and events, teachers need to master the skills of the historical discipline, believe those skills are important, and develop the pedagogical tools to teach them.

Teacher education programs are designed to wed pedagogy and content in just this way, particularly through Methods in Teaching courses. Yet no matter how excellent these courses, they are always incomplete and often taught as capstones, when it is too late for students to rethink their earlier content courses. College students too often sit through these content courses in passive student mode, forgetting that what they learn will have relevance for them well past the semester’s final exam. It is incumbent upon the historians who teach at the post-secondary level, therefore, to speak directly to the pre-service teachers in their courses as potential educators.

The panelists for this proposed roundtable bring a variety of experiences to bear on the central question, “How can content specialists, particularly historians, help the pre-service teachers in their courses bridge the gap between their identities as students and their identities as future teachers?” They have (or are seeking) PhDs and EdDs. They teach social studies education courses and history courses. They have taught at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. And, most importantly, they have approached the question of how to engage pre-service teachers from many directions. They will use all of these experiences to spark discussion with attendees on the wider pedagogical implications of teacher education.

All of us who teach at the college level have pre-service teachers in our courses, whether those students have declared education majors or not. We are part of a K-16+ system, even if we don’t generally think of ourselves that way. If we ever want to stop grumbling about what our students don’t know or what they should know, we have to ensure that their secondary teachers are both willing and able to teach those things our profession has deemed important. Since the historians teach the teachers, we only get to stop grumbling when we willingly take our place within the educational system.

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