California State University, Long Beach
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The History Project Focuses on Assisting Teachers in Teaching

Published: June 15, 2009

CSULB will host an institute in the Karl Anatol Center from Monday, June 22 to Friday, June 26 offering instruction on teaching world history for sixth, seventh and 10th-grade teachers in cooperation with the UC Irvine History Project.

Conference organizer David Neumann, a member of the CSULB History Department since 2005, explained that The History Project is a site of the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), a K-16 collaborative headquartered at UC Davis and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in history and social science education. Part of the larger network of discipline-specific sites known as the California Subject Matter Projects, the CHSSP sites are housed in departments of history and geography at university campuses throughout California.

“We anticipate about 30 attendees. We’ll be offering them integrated training with three components,” he said. “First, they will listen to presentations by world historians like CSULB’s Ken Curtis and Tim Keirn. But these presentations aim to provide more than content knowledge. Our idea is that history teachers need to have their subject framed by some of the larger concepts and themes that define the field. Second, this also is a chance for teachers to explore history-specific pedagogy with the help of teacher leaders. The third component is the chance for teachers to work on developing classroom materials with colleagues based on the institute presentations.”

To Neumann, reaching out to K-12 teachers underlines the importance of teaching world history. “Teachers today may have backgrounds in social studies or American history, but fewer have much coursework in world history,” he said. “They may be prepared to discuss the structure of American government, but less so topics like the history of China or sub-Saharan Africa. Institutes like these can help to remedy that.”

The History Project is committed to improving the teaching and learning of history-social science through partnerships between K-12 teachers and university faculty that strengthen disciplinary content knowledge for all students as outlined in the History-Social Science Content Standards.

“This institute shows that the History Project represents the growing recognition that the key to school reform and to successful student learning is well-prepared teachers,” he said. “Effective teachers need deep content knowledge and the discipline-specific strategies to teach it effectively. The collaboration between K-12 teachers and university faculty reflects the seamlessness of their connection and benefits both groups. While K-12 teachers become more effective in the classroom, university faculty also become more reflective about their discipline by having to articulate key concepts more explicitly.”

The CSULB-UC Irvine connection is a synergistic one, Neumann explains. “We have different experiences and so bring different strengths to the subject,” he said. “Our two systems bring different strategies and ways of thinking to the subject of education. Plus, project staff members just enjoy working together.”

Neumann is excited about the opportunities represented by the conference. “This is an opportunity for educators at all levels of instruction to be challenged intellectually and to work with colleagues in the development of classroom materials that will go a long way toward improving student instruction,” he said.