Challenge of Rethinking History Education

There are many different types of teachers who can get the same point across regarding history, but there are only a select amount of history teachers who teach their students how to read/analyze historical sources, make historical claims, etc. This reading discussed the difference between two teachers; Bob Brinton and Nancy Todd. Brinton is a teacher who really loves to teach their favorite parts of history. He also relies heavily on the textbook to make up for whatever he misses or does not include in his teachings as well as using the textbook for test questions. His tests are also very detail rich. Todd on the other hand lets her students make their own interpretations on topics in history while giving them multiple kinds of resources as well as recent ones. Her tests are more catered to being able to apply what the student learned instead of recall on details. Both teachers have students who perform good or bad, but their methods are entirely different.

Todd’s way of teaching is the better method in my opinion. Teachers are supposed to teach their students how to analyze sources of the past so the students can build their own arguments along the way. Students are supposed to always back up their arguments with evidence and if they cannot properly analyze historical evidence how will they form their beliefs? Making students have proper evidence to back up their argument also has them assessing their perspective to make sure it is what they really believe. Todd reiterated to her students that “claims about interpretations and understandings of Lincoln that develop from the sources she supplied need to be supported by evidence drawn directly from those sources” (VanSledright 8). She allows her students to create whatever argument they believe in as long as they can back it up with sources. Teaching out of a textbook will only go so far in a classroom and for the students which is why it should not be the main source of information and seen only as another source they can use.

Brinton is a “powerful storyteller” which can be very helpful in the classroom. It can keep students engaged and interested in what they are learning, but if tests are based on how well they can recall those details during the storytelling then they are set up for failure. Students learn in different ways and some students are just not able to sit for 90 minutes or so hearing the teacher talk the full time. Teachers should engage their students in different ways by having them group discuss or self reflect on paper instead of having them sit in the same spot and just listen. The way that Todd teaches allows students to remember information from that class in the future and be able to use what they learned going further in other classes. Engaging students and making them practice the way they think about history while forming their own opinion of the past helps them learn more and potentially perform better in the class.