Steve Hamilton, Big History Teacher
I’ve been teaching world history to sophomores at Capital High School in Olympia, Washington, for five years. We have a regular and an honors track. I teach the regular class, but believe I have honors’ standards—largely due to the bar set by Big History. BHP excites me because it gets students to focus on developing, communicating, and providing evidence for an argument. Students can see that this is a skill that will last them a lifetime, so it’s not hard to convince them of its value. BHP Score makes this even easier.
BHP Score, the free essay-scoring service, provides fast turnaround on feedback for several of the Investigations (DBQ-like essays) in the course, which teachers can then use as they see fit in their classrooms. Paired with lesson plans on writing throughout the course, BHP Score opens real possibilities for students to develop strong writing skills.
My students complained when I assigned Investigation 2 on the third day of school (it’s a tough assignment for the first week of school, even if it’s only meant to provide baseline data), and sent it off to BHP Score. I was shocked to see results waiting in my inbox later that day! At the start of the next period, I put the class’s average score on the projector. The score was lower than they had hoped for, and I assured them that this was merely our starting point. I then gave each student their individual BHP Score summary sheet, and they were visibly excited to see what they scored. We set a class goal of collectively scoring at least one full point higher by the end of the year.
Fast-forward a few months: My students just completed Investigation 6 as their final assessment for first semester. To prepare, we spent a few days working our way through the Lesson 6.0 Investigation Writing – Constructing an Argument activity (grading sample essays against the BHP Writing Rubric gave students a better understanding of the expectations they’d be held to). We then reviewed their baseline scores from Investigation 2 by reexamining the BHP Score summary sheets from September. With a more nuanced understanding of the writing rubric, students looked at their first essays with a more critical eye and a better understanding of what their original scores meant, noting where they could improve for their imminent semester final. Students then launched into writing Investigation 6, and seemed to take it much more seriously than they had Investigation 2!
Our next step will be to analyze the results from Investigations 2 and 6 side-by-side and reflect on areas of growth and in need of improvement—more on that soon. Personalized BHP Score reports have given my students motivation to deepen their understanding of the BHP Writing Rubric, where their own writing falls on it, and what specifically they need to include in future essays to achieve higher scores. I’m sold!
About the author: Steve teachers two sections of Big History as a full-year tenth-grade world history course at Capital High School, an International Baccalaureate school in Olympia, Washington. Steve has been teaching BHP since 2015, and is particularly appreciative of BHP’s emphases on skills like argumentative writing and claim testing, which he thinks is especially relevant today.