Making learning last. It’s a concept you’ve heard about at education conferences and professional development sessions. And for good reason. It’s why you became a teacher, right? For that a-ha moment, for that student that comes back and tells you that the things you taught stuck with them and got them to the next level.
We live for and celebrate those moments when teachers tell us that BHP produced an a-ha moment. Or when a kid tells us how much BHP helped them in their next history class, or in an entirely different and more difficult topic.
That’s why we spend so much time every year researching the lasting impact of BHP. We’re proud of the skill development the research shows us. Every year we get to see quantitative evidence of how students improved in writing, critical thinking, and applying BHP concepts when using these skills.
But one thing we noticed was that although students improve during the course of a BHP class, and then go on to use the skills they learned in other classes or in college, they weren’t really progressing in how they applied those skills. Although they were using claim testing and writing and scale switching, they were using them in the same ways they were while taking the BHP course. We want to do better than that.
Enter one of the biggest course updates we’ve taken on since the course was launched. Our goal: To really make our focus on skills clear and explicit. We wanted to more clearly define each skill, refine a tool for each skill based on feedback we’ve gathered over the years, and improve the activities that introduce and formalize those skills. We call the resulting activities progressions. They build upon one another over the course. Each reinforces the core ideas. And, eventually, students should internalize these ideas and rely less and less on the formal tools.
In combination, the BHP practice progressions and reinforcement of repeated activities get us much closer to our goal of helping kids to think like historians in every class they take, long after they’ve completed the BHP course. Lasting learning.
If you’ve taught BHP before, don’t panic. You’re going to see a lot of familiar activities. In many cases (scale, interdisciplinarity, and claim testing), we already had a lot of what we needed to create practice progressions. In those cases, we just needed to tie things together, dust off some cobwebs, and freshen the place up a bit. In other cases (causality, narrative and thresholds, and vocabulary) you’ve got some fun and engaging new activities to consider slotting into your plans. It’s worth it.
To help teachers get a deeper understanding of how these skills play out in the classroom, we’ve updated Teaching Big History (TBH) by adding Part 3, which includes teachers talking about each of the progressions. In these talks, BHP Teacher Leaders give firsthand accounts of their own classrooms and how they approach one or more of the activities. From there, you can head over to Yammer to check out the new practice groups and talk with other teachers about how things are going in your classroom. If you’ve already completed Teaching Big History, we’ve added an additional incentive for you to complete Part 3. If you’ve never taken TBH, give it a look.
Our best ideas come from our teachers and students. Be sure to share your feedback as you explore and try out these updates in the classroom.
Want to learn even more about BHP’s Content Updates? Check out our blog post on Practice Progressions.