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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Becoming historians : a project- based learning curriculum

  • Author(s): Rasori, Tina Marie
  • et al.

Many students think of history as a subject that explains the past with little application to the present or life today. Because they are unable to relate history to their own lives and present experience, they are perhaps more likely to see the subject as "boring." However, historians are active seekers of primary sources, which allow students of history to experience moments from the past in an active and present sense. Teaching students to become historians begins with teaching students how historians actually think about history, which is often based on finding and interpreting primary sources, and then formulating opinions about history. Becoming Historians: A Project-Based Learning Curriculum was developed for educators to teach their students historical thinking skills such as connecting, analyzing and applying. By acquiring historical thinking skills, students will learn both the content of history and transfer those skills in order to be effective citizens in society. The overall goals of the curriculum are for students to learn how to think historically about a topic through connecting a historical figure's actions to a historical time period, analyzing the causes and effects of a historical figure's actions and applying a historical figures actions to the world today, while collaboratively engaged in a project- based research project. Becoming Historians was implemented in a fifth grade multiple subject classroom. Data from research reports, poster board projects, world exploration essays, observations and field notes were analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum. The results indicate that students become motivated, work collaboratively and learn how to think historically when immersed in an inquiry-based project that incorporates graphic organizers and explicit modeling. Becoming Historians assists teachers to teach history in an engaging and interactive way that helps students learn important thinking skills such as connecting, analyzing and applying concepts that they can use in history as well as in their lives

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