Teaching and Learning History - 010516

Introduction to NCHE's Blog

Preparing Students for a Complex Marketplace of Ideas

By Justin Jakovac
National Council for History Education
Executive Director

History teachers need the time and tools to prepare students for an increasingly complicated marketplace of ideas.  Not only are history’s themes essential to understanding what has happened, the study of history imparts mental habits that improve rational judgment (see History’s Habits of Mind).  What’s more, a firm understanding of historical discourse is essential to creating informed and engaged citizens.  

In order to further the National Council for History Education’s mission to advance the teaching and learning of history, we are launching a weekly series of articles that will offer solutions to challenges faced by history teachers.  Our goal is to create a space that simplifies the lives of history teachers by sharing resources, perspectives, historical content, and instructional ideas from those who have been there.  No individual is an island, but history educators are often isolated from their peers by distance, thin disciplinary coverage, and the generally low priority given the subject of history.  

We each have hard-earned lessons and information that would benefit others. By creating this blog, we aim to break down barriers that prohibit us from sharing them. Teachers who are new to the profession may find the most value in the ideas contained herein.  Those with experience will also find ideas of value whether they are an affirmation or suggest improvement.  As life-long learners we all have something to gain from continual reflection on our profession.  As professionals we have an obligation to share experience with those who will one day fill our shoes.  

Our extensive experience in history education—from classroom teaching to school administration and professional development facilitation—provides us with insight into history teachers’ immediate needs and the ideas that can make life easier.  Our emphasis in this series is on creating connections with material that is useful, not just interesting, because many in our audience do not have the luxury to cull every source and craft every lesson.

How we got here:
The National Council for History Education (NCHE) was formed in 1990 in response to the recommendations of the Bradley Commission on History in Schools (BCHS).  The BCHS identified the vital themes and habits of mind that are common to sound history instruction, and NCHE was created with a mission to carry forward the promotion of those ideas.  During the 1990s NCHE received a grant from the Fund to Improve Post Secondary Education (FIPSE), through which we pioneered the professional development model now described as the NCHE colloquium.  A colloquium features a team composed of a Historian, Master Teacher, and History Education Specialist who present a program balanced between historical content and classroom-ready instructional strategies.  The model is structured in a way that eliminates the typical barriers between K-12 teachers and academics by promoting collegial discourse, mutual respect, and extensive interaction between the audience and presenters.  Further refining that model, between 2001 and 2011 NCHE worked with over 100 different school districts to provide professional development services to thousands of history teachers.  Our commitment to history education continues to this day as we seek to expand our connections and include more voices through this blog.  Welcome to the conversation!

“More history, better taught.”
- The Bradley Commission

About NCHE

The National Council for History Education promotes historical literacy by creating opportunities for teachers and students to benefit from more history, better taught.