The Netherlands in the seventeenth century was the center of a series of economic and social transformations that would redefine the way Europeans viewed the world around. This first age of truly global commerce saw the exchange of objects of commerce, objects of beauty, and objects of science. This moment cannot be understood without considering Dutch historical trends alongside the simultaneous power of the Scientific Revolution, the rise of the Atlantic World, and the nature of global exchange. Through the exploration of changing material culture in this moment, students can be exposed to deeper historical analysis and higher order thinking.
Standards-based grading and assessment can work in an AP class. It requires a shift in mindset about the role of skill and content as well as clear systems to protect the integrity of each. I favor simplicity to prevent the danger of over-engineering the grading infrastructure.
Khaldun's theory around social solidarity is, at once, accessible and illustrative of complex historical thinking. It provides students with an example of the "big picture" that the AP World History course is designed to teach, it encourages thinking in historical comparison, causation, and continuity and change over time, and it is relevant to content from nearly every unit.
Every few years I do a new iteration of my classroom posters for AP World. This year, I focused my new posters around the major historical thinking skills. These were inspired by the skill-based guideposts in Peter Seixas' book The Big Six.
The interplay between military force and cultural power is one of the threads that runs through the entire AP World curriculum. Picking out these threads (or Key Concepts) and making them visible is one of the values teachers can add to the curriculum so that it does not become a death march through content. This takes a bit of planning, but pays tremendous dividends.
At the end of September I traveled to Dunhuang, in western China, with a group of high school students. There were some great experiential connections to the AP World curriculum. History is more than just a skill or content from a book. History can be experienced; There is value in looking for connection to the past in order to understand the human experience. Trips like this can plant seeds for future historical interest and inquiry in ways that my classroom cannot.
In the race to cover content it is easy to overlook the importance of scaffolding historical thinking during instruction. It is easy to ask students to analyze causes and effects, make comparisons, or effectively source documents; but harder to make sure students have a clear path to showing proficiency. Without clear scaffolding, without a system for teaching historical thinking, students are more likely to fall into "kitchen-sinkism." That is, they are more likely to think that copious amounts of detail and content, regardless of its relative significance, constitutes good history. Some students will always get to the goal on their own, but scaffolding helps all students have a clear path forward.
Although the complexity point is difficult for students to earn, it is possible. Depending on the historical thinking skill or topic being written about, there are some easy frameworks students can use in their arguments to make writing with complexity a habit.
Review activities for AP World History Modern
The use of primary sources has become increasingly common in history classrooms. Educators and researchers have been broadly pushing for this years. Specifically, this has been part of a call for the explicit teaching of historical thinking skills alongside prioritized content. Interestingly, the largest barriers to increased use of primary sources in the classroom that I have witnessed are not student reading ability, but a lack of teacher training and experience as well as access to materials.