Alliance standards for world history address the issues of Curriculum, Professional Development, and Educational Research. These three statements on standards in world history are relevant for supervisors and others: for school principals and social studies curriculum directors, who determine the practical boundaries on professional development activities; for state education offices and legislatures, which set the formal expectations on levels of preparation for teachers in world history classrooms; and especially for teachers, who must prepare and deliver curriculum to students. Here are the standards in brief, followed by fuller statements on each of them.
World history is a comprehensive curriculum on the human past. It is distinct from curricula that emphasize a sequence of regions and civilizations. The world history curriculum emphasizes skills in historical thinking, a chronological approach to the human past, multiple scales of social activity, interactions among groups of people and social processes, and the identification of multiple perspectives on the past. The curriculum explores social change, cultural interaction, and economic and political development. It presents an orderly exploration of multiple spheres of history and scientific inquiry. At the same time the curriculum addresses conflict as well as cooperation in the past, and explores debate as well as consensus.
Programs of professional development in world history are to prepare teachers for excellence in presenting the world history curriculum to students. The past preparation of history teachers, in which college courses presented histories of separate nations, did not prepare teachers for the world history curriculum. In-service teachers of world history will thus benefit from a full program of world-historical professional development. This program of professional development requires a substantial investment of time by providers and participating teachers: we propose a course with 50 hours of instruction as the basic unit of professional development.
Professional development courses and programs in world history should address teacher learning of content regarding historical time, geography, and topic. They should develop relevant concepts and themes. Courses should be attentive to current knowledge and research on student learning of history. PD programs should enable teachers to present courses that meet the standards of the world history curriculum and that also fit with Common Core and state standards.
Research on the teaching and learning of history—and especially world history—is essential to understanding how students learn. Such research must be conducted at two levels: by professional educational researchers, usually based in schools of education, and by teachers who are conducting research on the learning in their own classrooms. The results of educational research on world history should be read, debated, and implemented in the schools.
The research efforts of teachers should explore how students encounter and develop historical skills, including learning about causation, continuity, change, and about multiple scales in society. Teachers should conduct research on how to measure and assess student understanding.
Educational researchers should assess the existing efforts to improve teaching and professional development as well as the curricular innovations that may result from implementation of research. Educators should also review the new results of historical research, and whether or how they influence the world history curriculum. Programs of professional development should be accompanied by research—on the character of the program, the learning of teachers, and the subsequent learning of students. Particular issues for research should include causation, continuity and change, scales and scale-shifting, and best practices in assessing student understanding.
The Alliance project is to affirm the need for a world history curriculum based on the most up-to-date research and pedagogy.. World history is singularly positioned to engage students in understanding the complexity of the entire human experience. A global world history curriculum, the approach advocated by the Alliance, gives students the unique opportunity to understand processes of change and continuity at a range of scales, including the very largest, and to acquire the ability to connect local developments to global ones. It allows students to acquire knowledge about individuals, events, and processes within a global context, and to analyze and compare the development of different perspectives across time and place. Students will engage with the broadest array of evidence, including non-written sources, thus enhancing their cross-disciplinary literacy.
A global world history curriculum supports many of the standards in the Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts. It is particularly effective in helping students understand other perspectives and cultures, which is a primary goal of the Common Core:
“Students appreciate that the twenty-first-century classroom and workplace are settings in which people from often widely divergent cultures and who represent diverse experiences and perspectives must learn and work together. Students actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening, and they are able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds. They evaluate other points of view critically and constructively.”
Standards for a global world history curriculum: World history courses should include:
- Study that is generally organized chronologically and that addresses change in human society over time.
- Study of the past at multiple scales of time, space, and subject matter from change on the local level up to long-term biological and social change in the human species.
- Study that emphasizes development of students’ historical thinking skills, including the skills described in the Common Core State Standards for literacy in history/social studies.
- Study founded on the posing of significant historical questions rather than simply “covering” nations, civilizations, or regions.
- Study that contextualizes developments in particular nations, civilizations, or regions within larger patterns of change.
- Study of interactions and their consequences among human groups from the level of the family up to humankind as a whole.
- Study that acknowledges multiple perspectives in the past, the varieties of interpretations of the past, and alternative approaches to structuring the study of world history.
- Study that equips students with knowledge of world geography and that introduces them to several spheres of historical and social scientific inquiry—political, social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and environmental.
- Study that encourages students to investigate causal relationships between the human past and present conditions, dilemmas, and challenges
Alliance standards and existing state standards
Neither the world history standards that states, districts, and individual schools stipulate nor the leading commercial textbooks necessarily incorporate all the premises and conceptual ideas that the Alliance curriculum framework puts forward. Indeed, content standards vary widely in their approach from one state and district to another. Moreover, content standards typically take the form of lists of historical topics to be addressed rather than coherent designs for historical investigation over the course of a school year. Fortunately, teachers more often than not have leeway to determine how their students will meet competency standards or make use of textbook knowledge. It is also clear that committed world history professionals are eager to explore and introduce new concepts and approaches as ways of more effectively helping their students to meet specified competency standards.
Professional development programs in world history are to provide in-service study enabling school systems and their social studies teachers to develop the skills and institutions for providing high-quality instruction enabling students to learn concepts, content, and debates in world history. Such professional development requires a substantial investment: For the schools, as a rule of thumb, year 1 brings introduction to the new materials, year 2 brings comfort with the materials, and year 3 brings real learning within the new context. Professional development programs require a steady institutional commitment to support of the program and to providing adequate resources.
For individual teachers, a program of professional development requires the equivalent of a full college course in study, followed by steady reinforcement of the world-historical framework of teaching and learning. For supervisors, a program of professional development means a multi-year commitment to strengthening curriculum, teaching practice, and course materials. The major categories of study within professional development programs should be the practices of historical thinking, global conceptualization, and knowledge of world-historical content. A strong PD program should emphasize geographical breadth and it should emphasize social scales -- links from the local scale to the planetary scale of human existence and interaction. It should explore a range of historical themes, as they developed in various world regions over long and short periods of time, and expand knowledge of best practices in assisting student learning. Further, professional development should enable teachers to keep track of new developments in each of these areas.
We propose preparation of a review of the literature – what is known of the learning and teaching of world history. This review can be accompanied by creating a library of key publications on the process of learning history.
Research is needed on professional development workshops, on teacher study, on classroom activity, and on assessments. The Alliance emphasizes the importance of conducting, publishing, reading, and implementing results of research. Funding is needed for educational research and professional development: this too requires research. Donors need to be able to read effective research on learning and teaching of world history in order to gain conviction that it should fund curriculum, professional development, or research. The research needs to define the specific distinctions of world history from history in general.
The Alliance encourages development of a culture of teacher research for world history. Such research focuses on "action research" or the work of students in one's own classroom. Teachers can work individually but especially in groups to gather information on student response to classroom activities and materials, and trace their ideas of student thinking. Results can be shared in school-site meetings or in online discussions. Thus, the Alliance seeks the creation of a research cohort of teachers and students to create a sustainable community. As a reminder, National Board Certification reinforces action research.
Academic Research by Education scholars
Education scholars may focus on evaluation of learning in courses following a global curriculum in world history. For instance, exemplary research is being conducted by Dr. Linda Black with teachers present at the annual AP World History reading. This research is to focus on world history in middle schools and high schools. General categories for research:
Research to reconsider the existing literature with its theory and recommendations on three major issues:
- Learning in history
- How best to teach history
- How best to conduct professional development in history
- Research on existing practice in professional development and in teaching and learning of world history
- New research on learning in history, focusing on historical skills
- Research on specifically world-historical skills
- Research on teacher learning in professional development programs
Research on student learning in our upgraded world history course
The accumulation of research results on the teaching and learning of world history will promote a sound basis for work with individual students and for the design and implementation of curriculum at school and school-district levels.