Over the last 6 years I have made a transition to teaching historical thinking skills using standards based grading. Prior to this transition I would have claimed I was teaching historical thinking skills…but I would have been wrong.
The transition was not a cognizant choice on my part, the move to SBG being something the international school I began teaching at was planning on doing before I was hired. The logistical problems of SBG aside (and there are many we had to find ways to overcome) the process forced me to reconsider what it meant to teach a skill-based standard and assess, not content knowledge, but the skill itself.
Our department had countless hours of discussions (philosophical and logistical), planned and re-planned curriculum and lessons, and finally ended up with something resembling a cohesive and consistent curriculum. It was not always pretty, but it worked as well as it could considering how it had evolved and been tinkered with over the years. Sometimes it felt like it was held together by duct-tape and paperclips, but we patched and adjusted it, and where we couldn’t, rationalized it.
Every time we learned something about our standards or how best to teach them it seemed to require a reassessment (a dreaded word in our school given our incredibly lenient reassessment policy) of earlier work. You can only redesign curriculum so many times while also teaching it before the burn-out begins. Still, the effort made everyone better teachers and left us better able to defend why we teach history, and specifically, historical thinking standards. Dare I say, students were also better served by our efforts.
This has been a defining turning point in my own teaching journey and awakened an interest in curriculum that had previously been asleep. I am transitioning this summer to a new international school and I want to reflect on all of the work and growth that has occurred. I admit, I also want to scratch the itch of “redesigning” what we did to make it more comprehensive and consistent. No doubt this will also stimulate further thoughts and changes. Education is always evolving and is never “done.”
I hope anyone who happens to find this blog is able to find something that offers help. Maybe someone who is farther along in their journey than me sees a common struggle and offers a new idea or insight that I have not seen. Either way, teaching can be a lonely journey if you never leave your classroom and communicate or collaborate with your amazing colleagues. Thanks!
P.S. – please forgive any grammatical errors or poor blog design. This may be the real world, but I’ll just reassess anyway.