Kim Lochner, BHP Teacher
I work in a small rural school, close to the border between Queensland and New South Wales (Australia). As I reflect on three years of teaching Big History, I realize it’s not the size of the school that matters, it’s the scale of the material we present that counts.
Three years ago, my head of department (HOD) and I were introduced to the world of Big History at the Queensland History Teachers Association annual conference. Our go-getting HOD recognized the potential that Big History has to improve skills in, and interest for, studying the humanities at our school. She planned a series of Big History “taster” units for students in years 7 and 8 that were renamed “Global Investigations.” This allowed these younger students to get a feel for the subject and, we hoped, help them decide to select it as an elective in years 9 and10. I completed the online teacher training course and lobbied hard to be the Global Investigations teacher for the first year 9 class in 2017.
The course I developed divides the BHP thresholds across the two years: Thresholds 1 through 5 for year 9, and Thresholds 6 through 10 for year 10. We have two 70-minute lessons a week with one assessment task per term. Just today, as my students were grumbling about their upcoming assessment, they begrudgingly admitted that the writing skills they have developed over the past 18 months has made assessment tasks much less daunting. They know they have developed an effective set of writing skills that they can apply to future assessment tasks as they enter their senior phase of learning.
Queensland is currently in the chrysalis stage of an educational transformation. For the past 40 years, all senior assessment has been school based. A new senior assessment and tertiary assessment system is being introduced in 2019. For students and teachers, this means external examinations—two words that have many of us in a tailspin. On top of an already exhausting workload, we now have to prepare our students for exams we don’t set.
As a teacher of modern history also, I have already found many useful Big History resources creeping into my senior classes. As I now plan how best to support my modern history students for this assessment change, I realize the Big History writing lessons and resources might be the lifejacket they need. The BHP online treasure trove contains high-level resources that encourage high-level responses. As students make the 14-billion-year BHP journey, they collect a bundle of intellectual souvenirs. These tools can provide foundational support in the junior years to prepare students for senior exams. Writing skills are always essential in senior assessment, but with Queensland moving to external exams, these skills are even more vital.
About the author: Kim began teaching Big History in 2016. She teaches the course as a year 9/10 elective course over a two-year period, with students meeting twice a week for 70 minutes per class.