A Proposed Method
Teaching History from Present-To-Past (PREPARE)
A Proposed Methodology
Rationale: According to the Idaho Standards, the importance of knowledge about history rests with the learner’s ability to use it to make better decisions that influence public life today and tomorrow. History is normally taught as a narrative that begins in the past and proceeds toward the present. A critical weakness of this approach is that it will be difficult for most learners to see the relevance of historical dynamics to their own lives. History becomes entertainment, at best. History lessons are remembered as a jumble of events, dates, and personalities. Thus, even while the Standards are fulfilled, the core purpose of studying history remains unfulfilled.
The proposed methodology involves a spiral curriculum in which history is learned from present to past through inquiry, with recursive links created forward to the present at every phase. It is maintained that this approach will make history more relevant to learners and increase their ability to make use of history. It is further maintained that this greater sense of relevance, combined with more active learner inquiry, will result in an improvement of learners’ long-term knowledge of salient events, developments, and personalities when compared with conventional history pedagogy.
Description of the Methodology
Present-to-Past (PREPARE) involves a spiral approach with six steps in each phase. Teacher preparation for this methodology involves reviewing the salient concepts and facts for each standard and for each chapter of the textbook, and mapping these in an “effect-and-cause” order.
Steps in the Methodology:
1. Begin with a presentation and discussion of Current Situations. Current Situations is a deeper and broader assessment of the present than what is typically afforded by “Current Events.” Current Situations should focus on things that will be salient to the lives of learners – things that they care about and which are consequential to significant numbers of people on a national and international scale.
2. Students collaborate to develop Inquiry Questions. These are questions that will guide an inquiry into the causes of current situations. The teacher will assist the students in developing questions that are complete, relevant, penetrating, and of a suitable scope. The class, aided by the teacher, will select one or more of the proposed inquiry questions to pursue.
3. Students engage in Exploration of historical developments, events, and personalities in order to develop hypotheses that can answer the inquiry questions. In Exploration, students begin to map relationships between present and past.
4. Explorations should include use of the textbook and other available information sources, but should also help learners become centered in and bring to life the era and chapter being explored. This is called Visiting. Films, photographs, speeches, music, art, old newspaper articles, biographies, and performances could be used and exhibited by groups of students. The class, assisted by the teacher, will use these to develop the most useful theory to define that prior era/chapter and to explain the present day situation.
5. Students Review Forward the causes and effects from the era studied directly (not through subsequent eras) to the present day (return to Step 1).
6. Students Retrace Inquiry Questions back to the last era visited (moving through every era previously studied), review their knowledge of that era, and begin working backwards from that era with Step 2.