THE IMPACT OF BHP

Bob Regan
Big History Project Team

Big History is an awesome course! You don’t have to take our word for it, just look at the latest research. We’ve just published this year’s memo, which was drafted by Professor Bob Bain, our partner at the University of Michigan. This report, which we’ve summarized below, looks at student and teacher satisfaction with the course, as well as the impact of the course on student writing.

Student Writing
Each year, hundreds of BHP students submit writing samples at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the course. Similar to the DBQ (document-based question), these assessments are intended to look at student reading, writing, and reasoning abilities. The University of Michigan scores the samples, focusing on use of evidence, reasoning, writing mechanics, and content knowledge. The chart below shows the impressive gains BHP students achieved over the year. Results like these aren’t easy to get, and they reflect the hard work of the teachers and students in the course.

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Teacher Perception
In addition to the student writing submissions, throughout each school year a group of BHP teachers agree to complete a series of surveys to track overall satisfaction with the course. We are greatly encouraged by this year’s results, which indicate that overall teacher satisfaction with the course—with willingness to recommend the course to others—is at nearly 98 percent.

BHP-blog-Teacher-Satisfaction

Long-Term Case Studies
This year, we wanted to look at the impact on students two years after completely the Big History course so we asked a researcher to visit schools where Big History Project was at least in its third year. The results were far better than we could have hoped. Based on a series of interviews with former students and their current and former social studies teachers, the researcher observed these trends:

  • BHP students report increased engagement with history and science, which suggests changes in their academic trajectories.
  • BHP students have a high level of knowledge recall and retention.
  • BHP teachers and students reported they used ideas, concepts, and skills learned in BHP in and out of school, suggesting transfer.
  • BHP teachers assuming role of lead learner had a positive impact on student engagement.
  • Students reported greater interest in and use of BHP skills and concepts in classrooms that employed the BHP conceptual frameworks.

Be sure to check out the full report.

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Not yet a Big History teacher? Register for a free account on the Big History Project website to access the entire curriculum.

ADVENTURES OF THE PRIMORDIAL ATOM: MY VERSION OF THE BHP COMIC STRIP EXERCISE

Conrad Pitcher
Big History Teacher, 9th-10th grade
Boston, MA

In two different lessons, Big History includes an activity where students make their own comic strip to help them understand a complicated sequence of events. By breaking down the Big Bang or evolution into a series of steps they construct themselves, students have an easier time understanding and remembering it later.

I used the unit 3 activity, Star Comics, as a starting point for my own version of that activity for unit 2. I call it, “Adventures of the Primordial Atom.” In addition to the materials from the Big History Project, we draw upon chapters from Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and Neil Shubin’s “The Universe Within.” Students then use two iPad apps—Comic Maker and Skitch—to produce digital versions of their comics.

Activity Overview
I particularly like how this activity reinforces the concept of scale of the Big Bang for the students. The Big Bang happened so fast, it’s nearly impossible to conceptualize how little time is passing. The first three or four frames of the comic typically represent things that happened instantaneously. This is a challenging point for students, but an important lesson.

This activity pushes students to pull together both scientific and historical evidence, and gets them synthesizing them together. David Christian, Bill Bryson and Neil Shubin’s work complement each other really well here, but they have different areas of emphasis, which the students need to reconcile into a coherent story.

This activity took three days total—two homework days and one class day. Students worked in groups of two. If your students don’t have access to iPads, the comic templates can easily be recreated and filled out by hand.

Click here to see one student group’s Big Bang comic.

As always, feel free to contact me via the BHP Teacher Community if you have any questions or want to share resources!

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Not yet a Big History teacher? Register for a free account on the Big History Project website to access the entire curriculum.

BIG HISTORY PROJECT + BROOKLYN SCHOOL FOR COLLABORATIVE STUDIES

BHP Team

BHP-Blog-Brooklyn-CaseStudy

Big History is being taught in schools around the world. Teachers and students across a diverse range of backgrounds, languages, locations, and learning environments are part of our community. As part of our ongoing effort to understand BHP’s impact, we’ve conducted several case studies of schools teaching the course. One of these is Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (BCS). BCS is a public, expeditionary learning school in Brooklyn, NY, where all ninth graders take BHP. When a core group of administrators and teachers were introduced to BHP in 2013, they were drawn to the flexibility and adaptability of the program.

Click here to view the case study and see what kind of impact BHP is having at BCS.

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Enter the Big History Project to continue your Big History adventure!