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I came to a realization while having a conversation with a teacher concerning the future direction of teacher's roles in the classroom. I found myself explaining that the Common Core was a positive step towards ensuring the value of history teachers. I have come to this opinion as I mine through both past and present research concerning the teaching and learning of history. Given what this research has to say concerning the study of history, I believe that history teachers now have the opportunity to step forward as leaders in the realm of literacy and preparing students for the recurring theme of active, responsible citizenship that is contained in the Common Core.
This opportunity lies in the new leeway given to the skill of the history teacher. While the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System largely ignored history as an important (worthy of being measured) discipline, the Common Core Standards shed light on its ability to submerge students in acts of analysis, synthesis, significance, and meaning making with complex readings that span cultures and centuries. Munson (2011) emphasizes this by explaining that the requirement to teach research, writing, and communication skills “opens the door for extensive use of historical documents, speeches, biographies, and other works that are excellent vehicles for providing students with a deep and meaningful understanding of history and civics” (p. 1). Simply put, the Common Core Standards do not illustrate how to teach, but rather the goal of that instruction (Martin, 2011).
Therefore, the Common Core opens the door for a possible increased amount of collaboration between historians and history teachers by advancing the subject beyond what many in the public view as a set of indisputable facts (Drake Brown, 2011) to one that requires true understanding. This is attained through extensive reading and writing that focuses on the disciplines’ “habits of mind” (Drake Brown, 2011 p. 2) that are employed by practitioners and instructors alike. This possible partnership holds the promise of what history teachers have wanted; the opportunity to prove the importance of their discipline through what Munson (2011) calls a revitalization of the most important history and civics content.
If taken as an opportunity, the Common Core Standards will assist history teachers by not just allowing, but encouraging a deeper investigation and creation of historical narratives. Students would have the opportunity to corroborate sources, evaluate evidence, and assess texts (Drake Brown, 2011) through discussion and debate. Because the Common Core Standards emphasize disciplinary reading and writing, knowledge about teaching history to diverse student populations is critical (Martin, 2011). Because historical knowledge coupled with disciplinary thinking is crucial to increase historical understanding, content knowledge is needed. It comes down to the fact that the Common Core State Standards are now highlighting the basis of historical understanding; literacy.
This, if embraced and approached creatively, showcases the importance of not only history as a subject, but the skill of those who teach its understanding. History teachers, with proper preparation may stand poised to bring a once pushed aside discipline to the forefront once again.
Drake Brown, S. (2011). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://teachinghistory.org/issues-and-research/roundtable-response/25351
Martin, D. (2011, November 18). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://teachinghistory.org/nhec-blog/25306
Munson, L. (2011). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://teachinghistory.org/issues-and-research/roundtable-response/25353