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OUSD K-12 History / Social Studies Standards

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OUSD Historical Thinking Standards 9th-12th Grade

The committee has identified and defined five broad categories of historical thinking around which to focus our instruction and district standards. It is important to understand that as teachers, from kindergarten to 12th grade, begin to work with these standards, they will apply them in ways most appropriate to a particular grade level. In addition, more detailed descriptions will be developed as assessments of historical thinking and understanding are implemented. Below are brief outlines and summaries of the standards.'
Final Note    References
1. Chronological/Spatial Thinking
  • distinguishing past from present
  • location
  • sequencing
At its most basic level, historical thinking requires students to be able distinguish the past, the present, and the future. Without a strong sense of chronology knowing what events occurred and in what sequence it is impossible for students to examine relation ships among those events or to explain historical causality. (National Standards, p. 20).

In addition, knowing that historical events took place in a particular place is also essential to understanding what happened and why. Supporting these elements of historical thinking requires the construction of time lines, maps, and historical narratives that locate historical events and individuals in specific times and places. This is especially crucial in the primary grades, as students begin to develop a sense of the past as different from the present.

In addition, this standard requires that students are able to recognize that over time, as some things have changed, some things have stayed the same.

2. Examining Evidence

  • examining primary sources (such as photos, artifacts, & documents)
  • understanding the relationship between primary sources & historical/ geographical content
  • author's intention / perspective

If history is to be more than just the recording of names and dates, then students need to confront questions of historical methodology: How do we know about the past? What do historians do? These questions focus on how students work with evidence from the past. Helping students understand how to respond to these questions is key to the development of their historical understanding.

With this in mind, it is important to help students begin to understand the relationship between evidence and historical understanding, as they learn more about the people, events, Place, and time period that produced the evidence. Learning about the society that produced a document is essential if a student is to use that document to make inferences and assertions about a particular time period. In addition, understanding a time period requires that both the background and the evidence students encounter reflect multiple perspectives on a particular event or issue. Connected to this encounter with multiple perspectives is the understanding that the authors of documents and historical accounts, existing in a specific place and time, brought specific intentions to their work. A student's ability to identify an author's intention is connected to his or her ability to understand that author's work and perspective.

Final Note: We developed these subdivisions (chronology and spatial, evidence, diversity and multiple perspectives, interpretation, and significance) so that teachers could work to develop students' capacity in each area. However, in reality these categories often overlap and are sometimes hard to distinguish from each other. Nevertheless, the creation of these categories should help teachers develop a more systematic way of teaching and assessing students' ability to think historically.

References :
Ashby, Rosalyn and Lee, Peter, "Children's Concepts of Empathy and Understanding in History," in The History Curriculum for Teachers, Portal, Christopher, (Philadelphia, Falmer Press, 1987 pp. 62-87.)

Banks, James, "The Canon Debate, Knowledge Construction, and Multicultural Education," Educational Researcher, June-July, 1993, pp. 4-13.

California State Board of Education, History Social Science Framework, 1987.

Geography Education Standards Project, National Geography Standards 1994, (National Geographic Research and Exploration, Washington, C.D., 1994).

Levine, Lawrence W., "The Historian and the Icon: Photography and the History of the American People in the 1930s and 1940s," in Documenting American, 1935-1943, Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly W. Brannan eds. (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1988, pp. 15-42.)

National Center for History in the Schools, National Standards for History Education: Exploring the American Experience, (University of California, Los Angeles, 1995).

Portal, Christopher, "Children's Conceptions of Empathy and Understanding in History," in The History Curriculum for Teachers, Portal, Christopher, (Philadelphia, Falmer Press, 1987, pp. 89-99.)

Seixas, Peter, "Conceptualizing the Growth of Historical Knowledge," in The Handbook of Education and Human Development, Olson, David and Torrence, Nancy, eds. (Oxford, U.K., Blackwell, 1996, pp 765-783).