David Burzillo
BHP Teacher, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Big Historians David Burzillo, Scott Henstrand, and Todd Nussen at NERC 2016

There’s a lot of talk in education circles about C3. It typically includes a lot of buzzwords and acronyms. Those discussions are important. But how do you actually do C3 in the classroom?

I’m going to be at the Northeast Regional Conference for the Social Studies (NERC) next week with Big History Project (BHP) teachers Scott Henstrand and Todd Nussen to teach a clinic on doing C3. BHP naturally lends itself to a discussion of the C3 framework and, more important, actually implementing C3 in the classroom.

In case you’ve lost track, C3 stands for college, career, and civic life. You could print out and read through stacks and stacks of paper to get a thorough understanding of the full C3 framework and what it calls for. I won’t get into all that. Night reading. The upshot is this:  Our call to action as history teachers is not just to help kids learn history, but also to help them develop the tools and skills of disciplines and critical thinking they’ll need to successfully navigate college, career, and civic life. The C3 specifies four key dimensions, or achievement goals, for students:

  1. Developing questions and planning inquiries
  2. Applying disciplinary concepts and tools
  3. Evaluating sources and using evidence
  4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action

Taken out of context, those seem like some pretty lofty goals for a history class! But if we reexamine them through the lens of Big History, achieving these readiness goals becomes a more approachable task, and the BHP course has many resources to help students develop and refine their skills in these dimensions.

At NERC, my colleagues and I will show, and assist attendees in practicing, how BHP addresses each of these requirements. From the practice of claim testing that teaches students how to examine claims using intuition, logic, authority, and evidence (or, “how do I know I can trust these Google results?”) to What Do You Know? Who Do You Ask? activities, in which students assemble multidisciplinary teams to solve a problem. In every unit, students have an opportunity to complete an Investigation, which is a deep dive into the unit’s driving question. Here, they evaluate original texts to construct coherent arguments and apply knowledge. These exercises are difficult at first but after a couple of units, the routines become comfortable and students begin to explore and inquire more deeply.

This is just a sampling of the activities, concepts, and routines built into BHP. And they work.

At NERC, you’ll get a chance to sample BHP’s approach to the C3 and collect your own evidence. We’ll bring stories from the classroom and research so you can test our claims that BHP hits the C3 mark. We hope to see you there.

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