Improving Learning
The Alliance seeks to open paths for supervisors, enabling you to create professional development opportunities for teachers. School supervisors at all levels will play a key role in determining whether full-scale and energetic programs of professional development can be established for the teaching of world history. Supervisors, in turn, need access to the materials, the support, and the funding to create opportunities for teachers to experience full-scale professional development in a global approach to world history.

The “Standards” page of this website summarizes the World History Standards that the Alliance supports – in professional development, curriculum, and research. Here we focus on providing tips for supervisors who wish to be guided by those standards.

Above all, we encourage supervisors who wish to advance learning in world history to contact the Alliance. We hope you will ask further questions and establish connections through the Alliance with other educators who are hoping to improve the learning of world history.

Steps you can take to improve learning in world history: These steps are explored in further detail below.

Define a PD program for in-service teachers

Locate the professionals to lead instruction in the PD program

Arrange elements of the workshop or course to convey the program

Recruit teachers and arrange for their support during the program

Ensure that educational research is conducted on the conduct of the PD program, on the learning of teachers in the program, and on the learning of students in subsequent classes

Define and upgrade the curriculum to be taught by those who have completed the PD program Sustain the PD program over several years, until it has fully taken effect

Model PD Course
Dr. Tim Keirn of Cal State Long Beach and several other members of the Alliance team have developed a model professional development course for in-service teachers. The course includes 30 hours of classroom study and up to 20 hours of structured activity for a total of nearly 50 hours – the equivalent of a college course. This course exhibits the Alliance standards, in that it includes chronological organization, with attention to large-scale world-historical concepts; historical thinking skills; periodization; and a range of historical themes. The course emphasizes major historical themes, with attention to which aspects of these are uniquely peculiar to world history:

1. Economic systems & networks
2. Human movement, demography & environmental interaction
3. State-building, expansion and conflict
4. Social & gender identity and structure
5. Cultural interaction and formation
6. Communication & technology
7. The multiple scales of human activity

The details of the course, in its initial testing in a group of Los Angeles schools during the Fall of 2013 - 2014, will be posted soon on this page.

Organizing a PD Course
The supervisor will be the point person in coordinating the planning, implementation, and follow-up for PD programs.

1. Defining your PD course or workshop and selecting the instructor
2. Recruiting participants, scheduling time and place, arranging subs for teachers
3. Rationale for Workshop and its modules (notes to the instructor)
4. Essential Question(s) for each module (replicated across the 2 workshops and content specific to the historical era you are working on.
5. Essential Question(s) for each workshop (the 3 hours) that is a question about the historical theme that will anchor this workshop
6. Learning Outcomes for this workshop
7. World Historical Themes
8. Historical Thinking and Common Core Standards Addressed
9. Advance Reading for Participants
10. Materials

The Alliance can provide support and consultation in getting you through these steps.

Lesson plans
The PD programs for teachers will give them practice in creating and locating valuable world-historical lesson plans. It is important that the lesson plans not be isolated gems but that they combine to provide an overall logic that enables students to know where they are in the world history course. To this end, the PD course will help teachers build attention to skills in syllabus design, pacing of their course, handling space and time, and review of earlier material.
The PD course will emphasize the approach of the Common Core, especially the approach of the Common Core to historical thinking.

Historical thinking skills
History courses, since they address complex social interactions, are understandable to students only if they develop the skills of historical thinking. As an excellent statement of these skills, the National Council for History Education has published its list of “History’s habits of mind.” Here are the first four out of the full list of ten: (

Grasp the significance of the past in shaping the present

Perceive past events and issues as they might have been experienced by the people of the time, with historical empathy rather than present-mindedness

Read critically, to discern differences between evidence and assertion and to frame useful and appropriate questions about the past

Interrogate texts and artifacts, posing questions about the past that foster informed discussion, reasoned debate and evidence-based interpretation

The study of world history involves additional complexity because of the long time periods, wide spaces, and multiple perspectives that are inescapable in world history. Educators will do well to distinguish historical skills in general from world-historical skills, so that one could say, “any good history course will teach you xyz. In addition, a world history course will teach you ABC.” For instance, world history brings attention to “scale” in history—the difference between local, regional, and global scales of activity, and the ways each influences the other. In addition, world history must include an appropriate balance of early and recent times. Further, it is important that a world history course come up to the present, to enable students to envision global patterns at present in comparison to those of earlier times.

Curriculum Upgrades
As a detailed example, the Alliance is incorporating World History for Us All (WHFUA), a web-based model curriculum for world history, as its primary (though not exclusive) curricular tool in its professional development activities. WHFUA, grounded in both the world-historical research of recent decades and the pedagogical study of how students learn history, offers an innovative model for a conceptually integrated study of the human past from remote times to the present. The curriculum includes both a coherent conceptual framework of guiding ideas, objectives, rationales, and knowledge for the study of world history and a rich selection of instructional materials, including lessons, activities, primary source documents, and guides to resources. The curriculum is available electronically without fees or subscriptions:

Supporting Research
Improved learning in world history courses can only be developed dependably if there is a substantial component of educational research to accompany both PD activities and classroom learning. Participants in PD programs should read relevant educational research on the learning of history and world history. Supervisors organizing PD workshops and courses must arrange to carry out research by educational researchers on learning by teachers and students: the Alliance can help school-level PD programs to arrange study of their progress by educational researchers. In addition, participating teachers, once put in contact with the Teacher Network through the Alliance, can learn how to define and conduct their own research and how to share it with colleagues.

Problems in funding
While funds for world history PD are not easily available, there are helpful steps you can take. Contact the Alliance for lists of organizations supportive of history education. Contact local foundations supportive of the schools. Contact your state board of education to learn about available funds for PD. While the funding may come slowly, continuing expression of the need for high-quality world-history education will eventually bring expanded funding for school systems that are seriously advancing their instruction of world history.