Changing the Classroom Curriculum in History: Recapturing How I Taught a Half-Century Ago (Part 2)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Within four years of beginning as a novice history teacher in 1956, I had slowly  introduced new content and direct instruction in skills into my U.S. history classes. As I learned the methodology of the historian in my graduate courses, I designed more lessons on analyzing evidence, determining which sources of information were more or less reliable and assessing what makes one opinion more informed than another. A later generation of scholars and practitioners might have labeled my uncertain baby-steps in changing the content of lessons,  “teaching historical thinking.”

I used “study guides” that I had prepared for each unit (e.g., the causes of the Civil War, Industrial Revolution) that included readings I had selected from historians, primary source documents, excerpts from American Heritage magazine, and textbook pages students should read. Students had to answer questions in the “study guide” pulling from the various materials that I and the…

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