Becoming well-informed used to mean reading a newspaper or watching the evening news. Surveys show that contemporary youth rarely do either. Today’s young people come to know their social and political world through online sources, most often social media. Students’ ability to evaluate the information they encounter online is essential to the future of our democracy. The Assessing Students' Ability to Engage with Online Evidence project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, will develop and validate a bank of assessments that measure students’ abilities to evaluate digital information about pivotal social and political issues.
Although the skills of historical thinking and news literacy are not the same, there are significant areas of overlap. In both fields, students must evaluate the source of information. They must distinguish between trustworthy and spurious claims. They must read closely, paying attention to word choice and bias. They must question the claims of a source by assessing the quality of the evidence provided. In this project, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, members of the Stanford History Education Group will design and validate assessments that measure core features of news literacy.
Digital citizenship requires that students possess the appropriate tools for thoughtful web searching about contemporary events and historical topics. This project, funded by the Germanacos Foundation, seeks to develop resources to ensure that students possess the skills to wend their way through the maze of information online. To help students develop these skills, this project will provide teachers with professional development, lesson plans, and assessments.
With support from the Stanford University K-12 Initiative, Abby Reisman led a quasi-experimental study across five high schools in the San Francisco Unified School District to investigate the effects of the Reading Like a Historian curriculum. Using a matched/control research design, the study showed that students who received the Reading Like a Historian curriculum outperformed their peers on measures of historical knowledge, historical thinking, and reading comprehension. To date, this is the largest intervention study in historical literacy in U.S. classrooms. The results of this intervention have been published in Cognition and Instruction (2012), the Journal of Curriculum Studies (2012), and Teachers College Record (2015).
Funded by a grant from Sweden's Wallenberg Foundation, Digital History in the Classroom and Beyond focuses on how technology is transforming historical learning. Once the province of state-approved textbooks, historical knowledge is exploding on the Internet in user-generated Wikis, videos, chat rooms, and history-related websites. Carl Becker’s aphorism from his 1931 address, “Everyman his own historian,” has become a digital reality. How can history teachers benefit from such developments? How can we use new technologies to improve instruction in middle and high school classrooms in the U.S. and abroad?
Claims abound about new forms of assessment, but the evidence supporting them is scant. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Historical Thinking for the 21st Century project compared new history assessments with traditional tests. A series of validity studies explored student thinking in real time, as students worked through new assessments alongside familiar multiple choice tests. Do new assessments elicit different kinds of thinking? Further, how do teachers cope with the demands of new assessments, which provide more information about student thinking than tallies of correct and incorrect answers?
Using Library of Congress sources to assess historical understanding
Beyond the bubble: New history/social studies assessments for the Common Core
Try, Try, Try Again: The Process of Designing New History Assessments
The Recasting the Textbook project explores the integration of primary source documents with interactive devices in digital history education. Funded by a Media X grant, this project gives students touch-based technology for engaging historical sources. Recasting the Textbook investigates the connection between tactile engagement and intellectual evaluation to see if such technology can increase students' personal identification with history and decrease reliance on the textbook.
The Investigating Historical Consciousness project surveyed 4000 young people and adults from all fifty states in order to study changing notions of the "most famous Americans in history." Contrary to the claims of pundits, survey results showed that changes in the curriculum have dramatically influenced how students view important figures from our nation's past.
The Historical Sense-Making Project was a three-year longitudinal study that explored how young people learn about history, focusing on both the history lessons in the classroom as well as history learned around the kitchen table. A key finding was the pivotal role played by film in shaping contemporary historical consciousness.
History education has two major aims: to shape identity and to foster critical thinking. Because most research focuses on the latter, historical expertise is sometimes viewed as idealized and narrow. This project examined what happens when history confronts the beliefs of faith communities and their members. We compared how historians with and without religious affiliations, clergy, and (non-religious) scientists interpreted documents about Biblical events and national holidays. Our work revealed how people think about “history that matters.”
Epistemic switching in the reading of academic and sacred history.
Historians meet Thanksgiving
What would George do?
The teaching of the Holocaust has been studied in many venues. But the venue in which more Jews perished than any other –Poland– has not received extensive attention. This project, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and conducted by Magdalena Gross, explored what motivates a group of Polish teachers to volunteer for a workshop on teaching the Holocaust, what they learn from this experience, and how their students interpret lessons from the darkest chapter of European history.
In every country teaching world history is framed by a more narrow national context. Toward a Global Perspective on World History at the High School Level was a web-based collaboration between students in Sweden and the U.S. with the goal of overcoming the limitations of a single national lens. A joint effort between Stanford (PI's Sam Wineburg & Brigid Barron) and Sweden's Kristianstad University, the project showed how students in two countries understand World War II from different viewpoints.
The Thinking Aloud and Looking aHEAD project developed a head camera and research protocol to study what people learned from spending time at a history museum. Despite the educational opportunities provided by museums, few scholars have looked at how learning actually takes place. This project addressed that gap by creating a new research methodology to use in museums that tracks people's thinking in real time.