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Thomas Fulbright Document Based Questions & Sources in the Classroom It was during my high school European History

class when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. It was also the first history class where I had a teacher show us how to source documents in a way that was both exciting and intriguing. I am willing to make the connection between the engagements I felt with history through the primary resources, which drove me towards teaching as a career. Since then, I have always wanted to integrate primary sources and Document Based Questions into my own classes. But, for one reason or another I have failed to do so. Now, with my school districts introduction of district wide mandatory DBQs, the arrival of Common Core English writing and literacy standards and the large amount of research behind effective incorporation of primary sources in social studies classrooms, there is no better time for me to begin adopting the use of primary sources and DBQs in my classroom. This research paper will explore various aspects of the Primary Resources issue. The paper includes the historical roots, contemporary context, arguments surrounding the issue, implications for my district, school building and classroom, and finally, my position on the use of primary resources within the Social Studies curriculum. Historical Roots The professional advocacy for the use of primary sources in the social studies curriculum is nothing new. If you consider the nature of the social studies field, almost all things within the classroom are primary sources in one way or another. Each document, assignment, book, textbook, lecture or even poster on the wall shows an attitude or opinion reflecting opinions, beliefs, etc. on an issue. A poster of the Declaration of Independence is, without a doubt, more important in the context of a history class than a motivational poster, but if you consider how the motivational poster reflects the attitudes during the time in which it was made it fits the criteria of a primary resource. However for the purpose of this issue paper, and for most of the researchers/research discussed in this paper, primary resources refers to the more traditional use of the term (and resources).

Using sources was part of John Deweys learning by doing system, which he advocated for in his 1938 book Experience and Education. The popularity of primary sources is tied to Deweys inquiry teaching method. This method has students at the center of the activity and their learning focus is tied to the experience of doing the work in this case working with primary sources.1 This system grew in popularity and by the 1950s and 1960s became known as the New Social Studies. The New Social Studies focused on the process of discovery and the use of primary sources in the classroom.2 In theory, students would become little league historians and social scientists, emulating the scholars approach to knowledge.3 In his book The New Social Studies Edwin Fenton created a model where students would use historical problems presented in the form of primary documents to learn history. Primary sources growing presence in exams specifically in the form of Document Based Questions (DBQs) - presents an interesting chicken or egg question. The College Boards decision to make DBQs was a major aspect of the Advance Placements American and European History exams in 1973 and 1975. This begs the question- did primary documents become important enough to need their own section in the College Boards tests or did primary documents become important because the Board decided to include them in their tests?4 Regardless, DBQs (and therefore primary documents) significance continues to grow. With DBQs now appearing on more and more state and district exams, its place within the New York Regents exam is most noteworthy.5 Although the use of primary sources had research and practice based legitimacy well before the 1990s, it was then where their importance was given the recognition it deserved through placement on a number of state and national standards. For example, 1994s Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for the Social

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Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938 Hendry, Julia. "Primary Sources in K-12 Education: Opportunities for Archives." The American Archivist 70.Spring/ summer (2007) 117. 3 Evans, R.W. (2006). The Social Studies Wars, Now and Then. Social Education, 70(5) 4 Blackey, Robert. "Advance Placement European History: An Anatomy of the Essay Examination, 1956-2000." The History Teacher 35.3 (May 2002). 5 Hendry, 121.

Studies suggested students should be able to read maps, interpret graphs, detect bias in visual materials, interpret the social and political messages of cartoons [and] interpret history through artifacts. Contemporary Context & the Arguments While most of the research supports the use of primary sources in the curriculum, there is concern over how much time they deserve in an era of high stakes testing, and whether or not they should be used as a form of assessment. Since the previous discussion in this paper about DBQs was used only to show the growth of the acknowledged importance and use of primary documents and not the validity of DBQs as a form of assessment they will not be covered here. This part of the paper will only work to discover the different perspectives on the use of primary sources in the classroom. Researchers, on the use of primary documents in the classroom, listed a number of reasons to incorporate primary documents into the curriculum. These include, but are not limited to: 1. Teaching social studies students to use the same skills as professional historians for lasting academic benefits.6 2. Teaching students civic values and preparing them for participation in a pluralist democracy.7 3. Creating Authentic learning experiences for students8 4. Better understand the complexity of different issues, develop empathy for different people and points of view and increase their ability to think critically.9 5. Engage in and own their part in studying history.10

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Why Dont More History Teacher Engage Students in Interpretation Keith C. Barton and Linda S. Levstik 35 Ibid. Keith C. Barton and Linda S. Levstik 35 8 Authentic Intellectual Work Common Standards for Teaching Social Studies M. Bruce King, Fred M. Newmann, and Dana L Carmichael 9 Education and Diversity James A. Banks, Peter Cookson, Geneva Gay, Willis D. Hawkley, Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, Sonia Nieto, Janet Ward Schofield and Walter G Stephan

What Does It Mean to Think Historically and How Do You Teach It? Bruce A. Vansledright

6. Help students become more fluent readers.11 The first belief, the desire to teach students to be young historians, is one of the most cited reasons why a teacher wants students to use primary resources. They want them to engage in the same process historians do. Many teachers hoping to present history as an investigative process want the process students to follow to mimic that which is used by academics in the field of history. Research found teachers believe students should learn how such stories are developed in the first place: They should be involved in historical investigations, they should analyze and interpret primary sources and they should understand the relationship between historical evidence and the construction of accounts- both their own and those of others.12 With the exact same intentions as John Dewey and Edwin Fenton, teachers hope by creating little league historians they will make the content more meaningful to the students. Researchers Keith C. Barton and Linda S. Levstik found the ideals within the first argument for teaching with primary resources understandable, but not something most teachers would see as necessary. They proposed a second reason for teaching primary sources; primary resources will teach students civic values and prepare them for life in a democracy. They elaborated, A basic requirement of democratic citizenship, for example, is experience in analyzing and interpreting information- and this is precisely what historical investigations provide. Citizens must also work together to reach conclusions based on incomplete and conflicting information, and this too is an inescapable element of historical inquiry.13 This viewpoint is much more practical, and justifiable especially if as a teacher you are advocating for civic development as a key purpose of social studies. Realizing that studying democratic action in a textbook is less engaging than properly taught primary sources is one thing, but realizing the use of textbooks as a one sided all knowing entity, rather than various viewpoints found in primary documents, is an undemocratic method and makes a world of difference.


Tampering with History: Adapting Primary sources for Struggling Readers Sam Wineburg and Daisy Martin Social Education 73(5), pp212-216 2009 12 Barton, K.C., and Levstik, L.S. (2003) Why dont more history teachers engage students in interpretation? Social Education, 67 13 Ibid

Many of the proponents of using primary sources claim it to be, not only worthwhile for teaching historical techniques and building democratic skills, but simply better pedagogy. M. Bruce King, Fred M. Newmann and Dana L Carmichaels piece Authentic Intellectual Work: Common Standards for Teaching Social Studies criticizes most school assignments, such as quizzes, review questions and by the book tests as used only to document the competence of the learner, and as a more frightful consequence, they lack meaning or significance beyond the certification of success in school.14 They argue working with primary resources, when done correctly, is a more authentic way meaning it involves construction of knowledge and has a value beyond school.15 A popular and very valid complaint about history, especially in most schools textbooks, regards history as something written by and from the perspective of the victor. When you use primary resources, such a tendency can be avoided. Teaching the different perspectives, especially when you use a primary resource with voice, helps students understand how complex history can be. This exercise in critical thinking builds not only those skills implied through critical thinking, but allows students from different groups develop a level of empathy for or at least bring about the awareness of- the views of people on the different sides of an issue and an understanding of their points of view. The next argument goes beyond the argument that not using primary sources prevents students from obtaining necessary skills to help them become successful. It actually argues not using primary sources in their classes will cause them harm. While it is a strong argument, Bruce A. VanSledright does a very good job of explaining his logic; [t]he common preoccupation with having students commit one fact after another to memory based on history textbook recitations and lectures does little to build capacity to think historically. In fact, studies suggest that these practices actually retard the development of historical thinking because they foster the nave conception that the past and history are one and the same, fixed and stable forever, dropped out of the

King, M.B., Newman, F.M., and Carmichael, D.L. (2009). Authentic intellectual work: common standards for teaching social studies. Social Education, 73(1) 15 King, Newman, and Carmichael, Ibid.

sky16 VanSledright follows up this criticism with praise of what students will be able to accomplish if they are taught how to properly use primary resources. Not only will they have more ownership in their academic work, but they will be better informed, educated, thoughtful, critical readers, who appreciate investigative enterprises, know good arguments and engage their world with a host of strategies for understanding it. He claims students who can meet these objectives would be models of the democratic citizens Thomas Jefferson believed our nation needed.17 The last of the most common arguments for the use of primary sources in the classroom has become especially relevant with the arrival of Literacy and Writing Common Core Standards. Textbooks do very little to help students improve their practical reading skills, especially with the reading required to accomplish such simple tasks as section reviews and other basic worksheets. Allowing students to engage and interact with a variety of different primary sources allows them to become fluent readers, and ultimately, with everything coming full circle, helps them become informed citizens.18 However, primary sources are not a guaranteed lifesaver in Social Studies Curriculum. In fact, if not used properly they can hold students back. The most known critic and advocate for proper use of primary sources (a term he dislikes) is Keith C. Barton. His essay Primary Sources in History: Breaking Through the Myths is a must read for anyone interested in the use of primary sources in Social Studies, especially instructors considering implementing them in their classroom. As the title suggests, the main purpose of his essay is to point out the most common myths which, when applied, leads to misuse of primary resources. These myths include: 1. Primary sources are more reliable than secondary resources 2. Primary sources can be read as arguments about the past 3. Historians use a sourcing heuristic to evaluate bias and reliability


VanSledright, B.A. (2004). What does it mean to think historically and how do you teach it? Social Education, 68(3) 17 VanSledright, Ibid. 18 Wineburg, Sam, and Daisy Martin. "Tampering with History: Adapting Primary Sources for Struggling Readers." Social Education 73.5

4. Using primary sources engages students in authentic historical inquiry (sources have already been chosen, and the students are simply asked to explain what they mean.) 5. Students can build up an understanding of the past through primary sources 6. Primary sources are fun 7. Sources can be classified as primary or secondary Bartons frankness clearly explains how each of the myths manifests itself and what its consequences are. To briefly summarize, a teacher must not expect the primary resource to do all the work for them. The teacher is the one responsible for teaching the proper skills for students to use, avoid bogging students down in needless tasks (he refers to it as death by sourcing), setting the context in which the source fits and bringing the source to life. His essay is by no means intended to discourage the use of primary resources, but rather to work towards increasing the chances a student will be exposed to the concept and method in a manner that allows them to obtain all the benefits of the practice.

Implications for Topeka USD 510 and Hope Street Academy In 2010, the Topeka Public Schools Social Studies Curriculum team came together and created a plan for the districts social studies classes to start using district wide Document Based Question assessments. The motivation behind the creation of DBQs was driven by a number of factors. These included, but were not limited to, a desire to have a district wide social studies assessment for standardization and accountability, a way to increase the usage of primary documents and other content specific literacy materials to sync with the demands of the arrival of the Common Core Standards (also introduced in the 2010-2011 school year) and to follow the popular trend of using DBQs and primary sources as a part of the Districts Social Studies curriculum. After completing the first year test run it is likely USD 501 will continue to use, but will need to make a number of adaptations to, the implementation of district wide DBQs. Feedback from social studies teachers ranges from asking for improvements to the rubric to better document selection choices. While some teachers complained about the program and are asking for it to be discontinued, it is more likely

to take a prominent position in the Social Studies curriculum. For Hope Street Academy the consequences of the DBQ are varied and mostly manifested in different opinions from the staff, but also from some logistical standpoints. A few teachers in the Social Studies department do not like the idea of DBQs in practice or as a form of district wide assessment. However this outlying opinion does not create any real problem outside of a negative attitude. Most members of the staff in the building believe the DBQs, with some improvement, will help the district in the long run. Both of these groups those who do and do not support the DBQs- are however advocates for the use of primary resources and primary resource activities, which, for the purpose of this paper is a good reflection on the technique in general. The one legitimate concern our school has is based on student turnover. If performance on the DBQs is meant to demonstrate a students performance from August to May then it is targeted towards students staying in the same set of classes (World History One and Two) in sequence. Due to the nature of our school we receive influxes of students at the start of every semester, including the second semester. This means we will have had little control over the students first developmental months working with DBQs. In addition, many of our students take the first and second semesters of the class either at the same time or in some cases, even out of order. Many of the tests ask students to draw upon and incorporate previous knowledge in order to receive high scores. A student who has not had the time to be exposed to previous knowledge, i.e. World History Ones detailed history of imperialism over the course of a semester (1400-1900), may not be able to do well on a DBQ in the spring asking them about Imperialisms influence on World War One. However this should not be a reason to not participate or dismiss the DBQs, it is simply an obstacle we will have to deal with on a much more frequent basis than other schools.

Implications for my classes along with my position on primary sources The consequences for my classroom are significant, but not necessarily detrimental. As shown by all of the existing research, primary resources and Document Based Questions are not just trendy, but are a meaningful addition to any Social Studies Content area. Even though this places the cloud of additional high stakes accountability over my head as the teacher and test giver, I respect this assessment as far more valid and useful than many of the other methods 501 could have used to create a standardized form of assessment for social studies. I agree that changes to the district DBQs need to be made, but the idea is worth sticking to. The time I have to set aside for giving multiple district tests, grading those tests and participating in district wide grading meetings will add up, but it seems the ends justify the means. I plan on using this district initiative to take more initiative in my own classroom and to break with some of the less engaging and less purposeful teaching practices and lessons I have used the past few years. As I stated in the opening of this paper, it was the use of primary resources in one of my high school classes that made history not just interesting, but also engaging. I feel very strongly about the importance of using primary sources because of their ability to teach students to see history in a different manner and through the eyes of those who were there. If I can use this as motivation to improve my own teaching, not just in order for my students to do better on the tests, then it will all be for the better. Finding, modifying and incorporating primary resources can be an arduous task, far more so than just assigning a chapter review or many of the other memorize and recall assignments, but it is worth the time. Once again, as the researchers have explained, such activities can be not only worthwhile learning activities but also ways to train and expose students to the use of critical skills necessary for functioning in and contribute to a democratic society as a capable and informed citizen.