kitchen table math, the sequel: onward and upward

Thursday, August 2, 2012

onward and upward

from Education Week:
For years, bands of educators have been trying to free history instruction from the mire of memorization and propel it instead with the kinds of inquiry that drive historians themselves. Now, the common-core standards may offer more impetus for districts and schools to adopt that brand of instruction.
Published Online: July 30, 2012
History Lessons Blend Content Knowledge, Literacy
By Catherine Gewertz
I bet Ed's going to be happy to hear that.

For the record, Ed is not keen on memorization in history classes, either, although his views on that score shifted steadily as Chris went through school. I remember Ed once telling a friend of ours, "I used to want schools to drop AP courses. Now I want Chris to take as many AP courses as he can possibly manage."

That was pretty funny.

Have I mentioned that Ed was one of the people who invented the DBQ? He doesn't like my saying that because he thinks it's entirely possible someone else invented the DBQ before his group did, but I don't think that matters. If Ed and his colleagues didn't invent the DBQ, they re-invented it, which is good enough as far as I'm concerned.

Good enough or bad enough. I remember back when Chris was coming home with one DBQ after another ... in 4th or 5th grade ... which was the first time I heard Ed had been involved in inventing the damn things. Thanks, hon!

Hoist by your husband's petard.


Anonymous said...

What is a DBQ?

-Mark R.

Amy P said...

Data based question?

That's fantastic that Ed was involved in that. We did those as AP History practice.

ChemProf said...

Document based question - the idea is students are supposed to refer to an original document. Great at college and upper HS. Goofy in 4th grade.

Catherine Johnson said...

I just read the whole article ---- horrifying.

I wonder if I can get Ed to write a post about it.

Or, better yet, an op ed.

Absolutely awful.

And- chemprof - EXACTLY.

DBQs in 4th grade are a complete waste of time (I suspect --- )

I don't think I posted a link to the British report on 'over-specialization' in history teaching - must get that up, too.

It's worth reading the entire Ed Week article just to see what parents are up against.

Everyone needs to buy Joy Hakim's series & start reading it to their kids at night...

Catherine Johnson said...

I WILL find my notes from the day I interviewed Ed on DBQs...but the essential point was that they devised them as a form of ASSESSMENT.

The idea was that kids would take CONTENT-RICH history courses where they would acquire KNOWLEDGE of history (knowledge stored in long-term memory).

They would be tested on their knowledge via multiple choice questions.

(This was for state of California testing of all students.)

The tests would include, as a ***much*** smaller section, a DBQ question that would be included to assess whether students were beginning to be able to apply the knowledge they had acquired to a historical question.

The real focus was on knowledge: had students acquired it.

Ed and his colleagues didn't expect high school students to be able to do much in the way of applying historical knowledge to a novel problem; that's something you receive graduate training in order to learn how to do!

Otoh, they didn't assume high school students ***couldn't*** develop historical reasoning and thinking....

They thought it would be a good thing for h.s. students to gain an understanding of what historical research and reasoning entails, how evidence is used, and they assumed that some kids would do so.

The DBQ questions were devised to assess historical reasoning, BUT they were by no means the center of the test, or the goal of history courses as Ed and his colleagues saw them. The goal of history courses is for students to acquire knowledge of history, AND "knowledge of history" means understanding of the arguments historians currently make about history (and understanding that historians do make arguments that are based in close reading of the evidence).

Also: the DBQs weren't invented as a teaching tool.

They were a TESTING tool: they were an assessment item!

One last thing: although Ed had never thought of the DBQ as instructional material, he doesn't think using them in AP courses is a bad idea at all.

Nevertheless, the focus of the course has to be on students learning and comprehending a historical narrative.

And a narrative is not the same thing as a series of DBQs on this topic and that.

momof4 said...

While in ES, my older kids took an afternoon session of "Hands-on Science" - lots of working in groups to discover something. They hated it, saying that it was all artsy stuff and no real substance. This latest sounds like the historical equivalent of that program.

I am with ChemProf: DBQs are AP level. The mission before that should be the acquisition of broad historical knowledge. Historians, like scientists, have spent decades acquiring expertise and it is that expertise which suggests areas of inquiry; kids do not have that background. I'd rather see GOOD textbooks, with supplemental material as needed. 471

lgm said...

I liked the dbq in grade 5 because learning how to write a dbq meant getting the point across that a thesis comes from the writer's opinion & conclusions about the evidence at hand. Kiddo is getting ready for AP Gov this summer; watching Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon brings that point home again.

Catherine Johnson said...

I liked the dbq in grade 5 because learning how to write a dbq meant getting the point across that a thesis comes from the writer's opinion

I would have liked Chris to write a book report or two!

Or a World Book Encyclopedia report!

Or just learn how to write a summary....

Catherine Johnson said...

The mission before that should be the acquisition of broad historical knowledge.


That's exactly the way Ed and his colleagues saw it.

The DBQ was a ***small*** part of the assessment they wrote, and they expected only more advanced students to be able to tackle it.

It was not at all necessary to ace the DBQ to pass the state test. (Though, as I recall, the whole test got thrown out because it was seen as much too difficult. But that wasn't due to the presence of DBQ questions.)

Catherine Johnson said...

I'd rather see GOOD textbooks, with supplemental material as needed.

Ed is STRONGLY with you on that one.

Me, too.

The textbook and the teacher's lessons are the center of the course; the DBQs are the application (AND you don't do 'applications' in history the way you must in math or writing!)

Anonymous said...

this is america bub and "good"
means "makes a lot of money".

so there are *plenty* of "good"
textbooks in math and history
alike. alas.

lgm said...

How about learn to use a dictionary..before foreign language 1? So much is missing from the LA curriculum.