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Posts tagged ‘assessments’

Beyond the Bubble – Stanford History Group’s awesome new assessment tool

If the Stanford History Education Group could cook, I’d marry it. Seriously.

The SHEG has awesome lesson plans that focus on the doing of history, rather than the simple memorization of base knowledge. Led by history stud Sam Wineburg, the SHEG is at the forefront of high-quality history instruction.

And now the SHEG is even more awesomer than it was before. (And, yes, in this case, awesomer is a word. It indicates a level of awesome beyond normal awesomeness.)

But, Glenn, how can the SHEG be more awesomer than before?

One word. Assessments.

One of the problems that social studies teachers encounter is the problem of how to assess historical thinking. If we ask kids to do history rather than memorize it, what does that test look like?

Multiple choice doesn’t work. And, at least in the beginning, kids don’t have the skills to complete a large 6-10 document Document-Based Question. So what do high quality history assessments look like?

SHEG’s answer:
The Beyond the Bubble website with its HATs – Historical Assessments of Thinking.

Short, easy to administer, handy interactive rubrics to go along with, student examples to aid in scoring, supporting materials, extension videos, and aligned with Common Core literacy standards. What’s not to like?

It looks like close to 60 different HATs have been posted so far in a variety of content areas. Each HAT focuses on one or more of the following aspects of historical knowing:

Evaluation of evidence involves the critical assessment of historical sources.  It includes the following:

  • Sourcing asks students to consider who wrote a document as well as the circumstances of its creation. Who authored a given document? When? For what purpose?
  • Contextualization asks students to locate a document in time and place, and to understand how these factors shape its content.
  • Corroboration asks students to consider details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement.

Historical knowledge encompasses various ways of knowing about the past, including:

  • Historical information is the recognition and recall of important factual data.
  • Significance requires students to evaluate the importance of people and events.
  • Periodization asks students to group ideas and events by era.
  • Narrative is deep knowledge of how the past unfolded over time.

Historical argumentation requires the articulation of historical claims and the use of evidence to support them.

And because they are all designed to take less than an hour and to be more formative than summative, HATs are perfect for integrating into your classroom instruction. They seem like a great tool to support the teaching and learning of historical thinking skills, a middle ground between multiple choice and full blown DBQs.

They also seem very adaptable – add documents to create larger unit tests, use as part of whole-group instruction, allow kids to work together in groups to solve the questions poised by a HAT, or incorporate the documents and questions as part of an interactive lecture.

I know. Awesome, right?

Finished a day of teaching, “a day wasted”

It’s a story many of you already know. But perhaps on a Monday late in the school year with state assessments all around us, it bears repeating. I was reminded of the story while browsing through an old teaching strategy article from the Organization of American Historians.

Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams, served as a Massachusetts state senator, a US Congressman and ambassador to Great Britain under Abraham Lincoln. He was also very conscientious about keeping a daily journal and encouraged his children to do the same.

Henry Brooks, fourth of seven children, followed his advice and began journaling at a young age. A particular entry written when Brooks was eight has continued to catch our attention. Following a day spent with his father, he wrote

Went fishing with my father today, the most glorious day of my life.

The day was so glorious, in fact, that Brooks continued to talk and write about that particular day for the next thirty years. It was then that Brooks thought to compare journal entries with his father.

For that day’s entry, Charles had written:

Went fishing with my son, a day wasted.

Now it’s possible that Charles was upset that they came home empty-handed, having caught no fish. But even so, he seems to have forgotten that the process is sometimes more important than the product. That the time spent with kids is usually more important than what we do with them.

It’s easy to forget the powerful impact we can have with our students just with the time we spend with them. So a gentle reminder during the assessment season . . . focus on the kid, not just her test scores.

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