Teaching World History for the First Time
Editor's Note: Because of a limitation in the software, we are unable to list all six co-authors. Therefore I have elected to idetify them within the article below. HML.
Thomas Barker – University of Kansas
Christopher Orlando – Southwest Middle School, Lawrence, Kansas
Jason Torres – Richard W. Warren Middle School, Leavenworth, Kansas
Sarah Fairburn – Prairie View Middle School, La Cygne, Kansas
Leah Levy – University of Kansas
Jessica Gowen – Achievement First East New York Elementary – New York, NY
Abstract: This essay is a series of reflections from five individuals regarding their student teaching experience in the world history classroom. These reflections denote how they felt prepared and unprepared for the secondary world history classroom and their recommendations.
Keywords: world history, secondary social studies, teacher preparation, student teaching
Introduction – Thomas Barker
Sometime ago at a conference a fellow colleague in passing mentioned how in his world history course he often felt uncertain if he was providing information that was helpful for those who were preparing to be secondary social studies teachers that might one day take on the task of teaching world history. As I started to offer him advice, I had come to realize that though I had discussed with those student teachers I had supervised about their teaching experience, I never really asked them if they felt ready to teach world history and what could have helped them to feel more prepared. It was out of this uncertainty that I decided to ask for responses on what it was like to teach world history for the first time with the hope of sharing them with an audience that may also benefit from these responses.
In trying to better understand what has helped and could be done to better prepare pre-service teachers to teach world history, I decided to solicit responses from student teachers under my supervision after they had completed their student teaching of a world history class. To serve as a guiding point for their reflections I asked that they try and address four questions: 1) In what ways did you feel prepared to teach world history; 2) In what ways did you feel unprepared to teach world history; 3) What would have helped you to be better prepared; & 4) General information about the overall experience. In addition, I asked them to be as candid and honest as possible.
When looking at these responses, it is important to note that each of these individuals were in different school settings, but I think readers will see that they do share some similarities. However, because of their responses, I feel that I need to provide some context of the teacher education program in secondary social studies at the University of Kansas and the world history classroom in Kansas. Many of the reflections denote a lack of historical content knowledge and perhaps the need for more classes that would be beneficial for their preparation. The University of Kansas does not offer what may be consider traditional survey courses in world history, where there is a two-course sequence going from prehistory to 1500 then from 1500 to the present. Instead within the past three years a course focusing on modern themes from around 1500 to the present is offered, but varies by the instructor. Though these particular students received their B.S. in Education, they are required to take twelve hours of U.S. and twelve hours of non-U.S. history. In some instances, students choose to double major with their second degree in history. In addition, these students taught for a whole academic year spending one-semester in a middle/junior high school and the other semester in a high school. In Kansas, world history is typically taught at the 6th grade and the 10th grade. The 6th grade course covers material from prehistory to 1400, while the 10th grade course continues the narrative from 1400 to the present. It is not uncommon for teachers to teach world history and one of the other social studies subjects, especially in rural school districts.
These reflections are in order of when these individuals student taught. Chris, Sarah, and Jason did their student teaching during the 2010 – 2011 academic year. All three of them have ended up working within middle schools and ironically not teaching world history. Leah and Jessica student taught during the 2011 – 2012 academic year and at the time of writing this are currently still looking for a teaching position, which has nothing to do with their ability to work in a classroom and is more about the lack of schools that are hiring. This demonstrates one of the difficulties in trying to prepare secondary social studies teachers in that there is a lack of certainty regarding where and what they may end up actually teaching.
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal's not-for-profit educational open-access policy.