Balancing Three Vital Components in Professional Development
The Common Core will be a game-changer in the teaching of content and in the skills of verbal-oral and visual literacy, including writing. Teaching ELA teachers should incorporate thinking about science, history, and other disciplines as well as literature. At the same time, social studies and science teachers must convey not just content knowledge, but the skills to analyze texts, data, images – anything really – and to write well about them: explanations, descriptions, arguments, and research studies.
Every Emerging America workshop therefore connects three components:
- Critical Thinking about Historical Content – which could be on any topic from patterns of Native American settlement or the Emancipation Proclamation to the history and science of flight.
- Practice in the analysis of a particular body of primary sources, including the very local (such as a series of studies of the local mills) to the national (featuring work with the 30 million items in the Library of Congress online collections).
- Focus on a small number of Common Core standards, usually one from reading and one from writing. Every workshop also helps teachers learn to match appropriate primary sources to each standard.
During each workshop, teachers practice multiple times with tools of analysis, featuring approaches from each of the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Stanford History Education Group. Teachers incorporate the three components in the writing of a lesson. In more substantial workshops, they teach the lesson, and then they bring student work and observations for discussion on how to improve instruction.
Topics, grade levels and subject areas, scholar interest, site, and other factors shift the balance of time, sources, and particular skills in any given workshop.