Social Studies Curriculum and Skills
The Bradley Commission on History in the Schools (a group of scholars
and teachers working to improve history education in United States
schools) recommends that studies in history "be designed to
take students well beyond the formal skills of critical thinking
to the formation of habits of mind." To nurture these skills
the Bradley Commission recommends studying history through a study
of vital issues and significant questions.
Overview of Standards in Historical Thinking
The study of history, as noted earlier, involves more than the
passive absorption of facts, dates, names, and places. Real historical
understanding requires students to engage in historical thinking:
to raise questions and to marshal evidence in support of their
answers; to go beyond the facts presented in their textbooks and
examine the historical record for themselves; to consult documents,
journals, diaries, artifacts, historic sites, and other evidence
from the past, and to do so imaginatively -- taking into account
the historical context in which these records were created and
comparing the multiple points of view of those on the scene at
Real historical understanding requires that students have opportunity
to create historical narratives and arguments of their own. Such
narratives and arguments may take many forms -- essays, debates,
and editorials, for instance. They can be initiated in a variety
of ways. None, however, more powerfully initiates historical thinking
than those issues, past and present, that challenge students to
enter knowledgeably into the historical record and to bring sound
historical perspectives to bear in the analysis of a problem.
Historical understanding also requires that students thoughtfully
read the historical narratives created by others. Well written
historical narratives are interpretative, revealing and explaining
connections, change, and consequences. They are also analytical,
combining lively storytelling and biography with conceptual analysis
drawn from all relevant disciplines. Such narrative promote essential
skills in historical thinking.
Reading such narratives thoughtfully requires that students analyze
the assumptions -- stated and unstated -- from which the narrative
was constructed and assess the strength of the evidence presented.
It requires that students consider the significance of what the
author included as well as chose to omit -- the absence, for example,
of the voices and experiences of other men and women who were
also an important part of the history of their time. And, it requires
that students examine the interpretative nature of history, comparing,
for example, alternative historical narratives written by historians
who have given different weight to the political, economic, social,
and/or technological causes of events, and who have developed
competing interpretations of the significance of those events.
Students engaged in activities of the kinds just considered will
draw upon skills in the following five types of historical thinking:
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Historical Research Capabilities
Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making
These skills, while presented in five separate categories, are
nonetheless interactive and mutually supportive. In conducting
historical research or creating a historical argument of their
own, for example, students must be able to draw upon skills in
all five categories. Beyond the skills of conducting their research,
students must, for example, be able to comprehend historical documents
and records, analyze their relevance, develop interpretations
of the document(s) they select, and demonstrate a sound grasp
of the historical chronology and context in which the issue, problem,
or events they are addressing developed.
In short, these five sets of skills, developed as the five Standards
in Historical Thinking, are statements of the outcomes we desire
students to achieve. They are not mutually exclusive when put
into practice, nor do they prescribe a particular teaching sequence
to be followed. Teachers will draw upon all these Thinking Standards,
as appropriate, to develop their teaching plans and to guide students
through challenging programs of study in history.
Finally, it is important to point out that these five sets of
Standards in Historical Thinking are defined in the following
pages largely independently of historical content in order to
specify the quality of thinking desired for each. It is essential
to understand, however, that these skills do not develop, nor
can they be practiced, in a vacuum. Every one of these skills
requires historical content in order to function -- a relationship
that is made explicit in Chapter 3, which presents the standards
integrating historical understandings and thinking for U.S. history
for grades 5-12.
From the National
History Standards, chapter 2.
Arts Curriculum and Skills
The arts are evident throughout the Tirocchi materials, as well
as in the skills students working with this project will develop.
Sometimes explicit, more often the arts are presented as a way to
integrate knowledge across disciplines.
Overview of the National Arts Standards
Integration is different from correlation. Instead of placing
different subjects side by side to compare or contrast them, integration
uses the resources of two or more disciplines in ways that are
mutually reinforcing, often demonstrating an underlying unity.
A simple example of integration within the arts is using combinations
of visual effects and words to create a dramatic mood. At a more
complex level involving the study of history, other examples of
integration might be how the American theatre in the period 1900-1975
reflected shifts in the American social consciousness, or how
the sacred and secular music of African-Americans contributed
to the civil rights movement.
These activities allow students to develop and demonstrate competencies
across the broad spectrum of the arts standards:
They should be able to communicate at a basic level in the four
arts disciplines --dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts.
They should be able to communicate proficiently in at least one
art form, including the ability to define and solve artistic problems
with insight, reason, and technical proficiency.
They should be able to develop and present basic analyses of
works of art from structural, historical, and cultural perspectives,
and from combinations of those perspectives.
They should have an informed acquaintance with exemplary works
of art from a variety of cultures and historical periods, and
a basic understanding of historical development in the arts disciplines,
across the arts as a whole, and within cultures.
They should be able to relate various types of arts knowledge
and skills within and across the arts disciplines.
From the National
Technology, Research and Education
Technology will be integral to this unit in a variety of ways.
To begin with, multiple types of information (graphic, database,
guided discovery) will be available through the internet to accompany
the unit. Students will be required to seek alternative sources
of information, some of which will also be found on the internet.
Exploring ways to capture and share student generated research will
Researchers from the Bank Street College of Education did a study
entitled, "Multimedia Design Research for the Museum Education
Consortiums Museum Visitors Prototype," in 1992. Although
the study was based on interactive exhibits among a wide variety
of visitors (adults as well as children) some cautious parallels
can be drawn.
The first interesting observation was that visitors used the technology
in different ways.
"Some people jumped right in, trying all the options, scanning
the prototypes depth and breadth. Others proceeded cautiously,
asking questions at first about how to proceed, where to go, and
what to do. Some plodded very methodically through the options in
a linear way
some enjoyed reading the text
Most visitors demonstrated an initial period of getting to
know the prototype, of finding out what was available through
it. This seems an important period to build into the classroom experience.
Visitors also found it difficult, at first, to let themselves
go and explore the materials in a discovery-based fashion.
Visitors who used the technology in pairs almost invariably began
a discussion about the discovery process, thinking together about
where they wanted to go and how they wanted to proceed. Again, this
has important classroom implications. We must allow time for students
to explore the materials on their own and develop a comfort level.
We should also provide information in a variety of formats to accommodate
the multitude of learning styles present in every classroom.
Developing proficiency in the use of technology is clearly an outcome
we desire for our students. The International Society for Technology
Education has developed well accepted standards for students:
Technology Foundation Standards for Students
Basic operations and concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and
operation of technology systems. Students are proficient in
the use of technology.
Social, ethical, and human issues
Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues
related to technology.
Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information,
Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that
support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits,
Technology productivity tools
Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase
productivity, and promote creativity. Students use productivity
tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models,
prepare publications, and produce other creative works.
Technology communications tools
Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and
interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information
and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
Technology research tools
Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information
from a variety of sources.
Students use technology tools to process data and report results.
Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological
innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.
Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools
Students use technology resources for solving problems and making
Students employ technology in the development of strategies
for solving problems in the real world.
From the National Educational Technology Standards
Technology is integrated into these activities through the uses
of the web and CD-ROM for research. It may be integrated into the
presentations and portfolios of the students. Keep in mind that
technology is also presented as content in this unit, with the changes
in technology during the period and how they altered both the larger
social landscape and the particular work of the Tirocchi family.
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