I no longer teach at a school that uses standards based grading. However, I believe in the spirit of it; how it honors growth over time, includes clearer and more visible learning objective, offers opportunities for better feedback, and generally supports learning over GPA outcomes. (That's a tall order to sell, I know). So, I have been reflecting on how to integrate the best parts of SBG into a traditional grading system.
The DBQ is not about teaching content, nor is it about finding the "right" answer. It's about giving students the knowledge and skill to construct an argument after questioning and analyzing sources. I don't want the DBQ to become a research essay, nor should it be a content dump where the document citations serve as nothing more than window dressing. This is neither its purpose not its potential.
"Doing Inquiry" can be easy, and does not always have to involve huge projects. Embedding small protocols and activities that introduce the various components and stages of inquiry help scaffold towards the larger projects that empower students and enrich traditional curriculum. I've learned that inquiry should not be a "special activity" but a frequent, even daily, classroom routine. Here are some strategies I have found success with.
The content of history curriculum is constantly growing and teachers have less and less time to teach it. Teachers need strategies to guide content selection, make courageous deletions, and unlock the potential of history education. This includes involving student choice and inquiry into the process.
An overview of my unit two plan for AP World. It is structured around a trade route map project with multiple opportunities for content acquisition and skill practice. At the end of the unit students write their first complete DBQ essay.
A lesson intended as a thoughtful example of putting skills first. It involves some interesting primary sources on the pre-Columbian Americas and an emphasis on source analysis, argumentation, and contextualization.
When students are making historical arguments they need tools that help them think through vast quantities of content quickly and provide a scaffold for complexity. I like to use two different activities that introduce two "Frameworks for Analysis" to help them do this, one for causes and one for effects.
My unit design process for a thematic course involves overcoming several challenges: content and skill selection, assessment design, and leaving space for inquiry, scaffolding, and differentiation. A healthy dose of backwards design alongside the four non-negotiables of my own process end up making things work.
Teaching both content and skill is a constant challenge, especially in AP World History. Rethinking old lesson plans helped me come up with a new plan for teaching Topic 1.1 that introduced causation, argumentation, and thesis writing. It worked well.
Seeing the methods and philosophical traditions that uphold the creation of narrative is an important lesson for any student of history. Interpretation is an act that is debated and ever-evolving, and it provides great opportunities for practicing historical thinking. There are some great entry-points into historiography in most curriculum that will deepen students' ability to analyze alternative viewpoints and get them discussing ideas and modes of thinking instead of fact. In my experience, students respond to such a compelling challenge.