Forming Student Historians: Primary Sources and Historical Research at All Levels

Chair: Meg Phillips

Panelists: Thomas Neville and Patrick Cronin

How can we help students learn the form of historical work and historical thinking through the use of primary source tools and archival research?

What are the benefits to students and society of learning history and historical thinking, and how can we articulate that the skills gained in history are as necessary as STEM skills?

This innovative session will open with short presentations on teaching with primary sources from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and from a founder of THATclass (The Humanities and Technology Class) on his experience teaching history to high school students through archival research. THATClass’s goal of making history as compelling and necessary as STEM and its practical approach ("What if we replaced the textbook curriculum with archival materials?") leads to authentic historical work, with students framing questions, researching in archives and developing important research skills.

After these short introductory presentations to kick off discussion, the chairs will facilitate a design discussion among all attendees with the goal of generating ideas in two areas: 1) How can students of all ages be introduced to the form of historical thinking and historical research through encounters with archival documents and research projects, and 2) how can the historical community make the case that the skills students gains through the study of history and historical research, including assessing the reliability and perspective of primary source evidence, are as critical for the health of American society and civic life as STEM?

Attendees will be encouraged to share their own good practices, tools, and ideas for teaching with primary sources, and will spend the final portion of the session designing a message that captures the real value of historical research and thinking, gained through work in history’s “lab” - archival collections.

Recorded in April 2018 at the OAH Annual Meeting held in Sacremento, California as part of the Mellon-funded Amplified Initiative.

Full Session


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