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.
Curriculum is not an add-on task that occurs in meetings, over summers, or acts as a distraction from teaching and instruction. Curriculum is at the heart of teaching and teachers should own it and live it. Vertical and Horizontal alignment is an oft mentioned, but less fine-tuned component of curriculum.
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.
This post contains my first draft and thoughts on the proficiency scales I've written on the C3 Geography standards. These will be used in a new interdisciplinary 9th grade course we are rolling out called Geographic Cultural Studies.
Providing quality feedback, and setting aside time for students to read it, reflect on it, and revise with it pushes back against the desire to go fast instead of focusing on mastery. Doing this frequently and consistently also helps build a positive classroom culture; Students can tell the difference between a classroom where feedback is being used as a justification for the grade they received and a classroom where feedback is the pathway to both learning and the grades that reflect that learning.
I decided to see what advice ChatGPT could produce if I put in the prompt "Write a blog post about tips for standards-based grading in social studies." I am copying below what the AI provided to me. It's all fairly standard tips, the type you would see as an introduction to the topic in a general methods textbook. The second part of this post is simply my thoughts on what the AI produced.
This post contains proficiency scales I have drafted for all C3 history standards for high school. Hopefully they offer a clear starting point for teaching and assessing historical thinking in addition to content.
The alignment between NHD and C3 creates unique opportunities when a curriculum actively leverages both. Students need to see how skills are interconnected and rely on each other when applied to a "real world" task. Regardless of whether a school uses traditional or standards-based grading, NHD and C3 are powerful tools for doing inquiry based learning and teaching historical thinking skills.
Not all standards are equal. Some standards are foundational, some are extensions, some are inextricably linked when they come to life beyond the curriculum documents. This is where teachers and content experts need to add their experience and expertise to the discussion. Engaging with curriculum makes teachers better at their craft and offers significant insight that curriculum experts alone may miss.
How can we make frequent and spiraled assessments in a standards-based grading system work while retaining the joy of teaching and learning? It's not easy, but can be accomplished if we redefine what assessment looks like. Here are a few things I have learned that helped me make standards-based grading work with in a social studies classroom.