History faculty implement new research curricula for underclassmen

Mayanka Dhingra, Staff Writer

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As the school transitions to a semester system, the Upper Division history department is looking to take advantage of the switch from trimesters and revise research and writing curricula in the upcoming school year.

History faculty are hoping that alterations to the curriculum will be a decisive step towards a greater level of consistency amongst different teachers and grade levels as well as better prepare students to meet the expectations of subsequent electives courses, Dr. Kalil Oldham said.

Recently, the history department has become aware that students oftentimes walk into their new classes having covered slightly different amounts material and honed different skills from the previous year. This can lead students to feeling like they are falling behind their classmates causing unnecessary stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to the research aspect of electives , History Department Chair Dr. Daniel Link said.

Last school year, the whole department cancelled all classes to go off site and spend a day reflecting on what teachers do similarly and differently in each of their classes, Link said.

In terms of research, part of the incentive behind altering the department’s prior approach is the need to adapt to the increasing number of sources available to students today and teach students to think critically about selecting credible sources as they will have to do in their future careers, Link said.

Rather than pulling information from a series of specifically selected sources, students will have to be more active agents in the research process and consider what they believe can help shape their writing, said Ava Merker (11)

Leyli Granmayeh (10) said that in past, research projects have been frustrating because of an unequal distribution of sources. Typically each student or each group is assigned a different topic and it can be unfair when one group has ten sources available to choose from while another only has two, Granmayeh said.

Link said the department walked away from the retreat with specific goals and multiple assessments for the 9th and 10th grade that would serve to ensure that projects are more student driven and teach how to research well and incorporate it into their writing, while also standardizing the material covered across the board.

Library Technology Coordinator Melissa Kazan, said she has worked closely with the history department in assessing resources such as databases, electronic reference books, and print books in support of its specific research projects.

“The hope is that students become more aware of the sources available to them to do research, so they can do it more efficiently can better prepare effective and robust papers,” said Link.

“We want students to be practicing skills like using catalogs and databases as well as correctly making bibliographies multiple times over the course of the year so that they become more confident,” Oldham said.

For Sophia Zelizer (11), what’s exciting is not just the opportunity to expand the scope of sources she will be able to use, but also the chance to do work she personally finds more intellectually stimulating instead of textbook work, she said.

Some of the teachers will begin implementing new research projects this fall, but the hope is that by next year all of the teachers will be doing some version of the different assignments the department has come up with, Link said.

According to Link, there is already a research project on African kingdoms that will be done across the ninth grade, as well a project on colonial North America for students in the tenth grade, he said.

Ben Hu (12) believes the shift will help with completing assignments since students will have more ability and time to plan out when they complete projects, he said. “At the same time, I can see how some students might find this overwhelming and intimidating,” said Hu.