HM - June 2017 - Survey Results


A Review of the NCHE Member Survey
by Sarah Drake Brown
NCHE Board of Directors
Ball State University, IN


            Between October 3 and October 14, 2016, NCHE’s Advocacy Committee administered a survey to our members. The questions in the survey asked respondents to self-identify based on their role in the history education community. Participants were then directed to questions designed specifically for individuals in each category. For example, individuals who indicated they are elementary school teachers were asked questions pertaining to the elementary history/social studies curriculum in their district and state. Those individuals who are public historians responded to questions pertaining to the historic sites at which they work, etc. All members were asked to: describe their level of involvement with NCHE; indicate the ways they most frequently interact with our organization; order the priorities NCHE should set over the next three years; and identify the biggest challenge they face in history education. In addition, respondents were encouraged to submit comments and ideas in a free response section.

            Twenty-one percent of our members responded to the survey, and the sample was fairly representative of our organization’s membership categories. For example, 4% of our members are elementary school teachers, and 5% of members responding identified as teaching at the elementary level. According to the participants in the survey, History Matters! matters to our members and serves as the primary way that members interact with and learn information from the national organization. Email updates and state conferences also ranked high as key ways we communicate with members. Volume 29 of History Matters! reflected our renewed attention to and emphasis on the publication that serves as a main information source to members. Volume 29 focused on thematically organized content that ranged from historical memory to technology and progress to family and gender studies. Spring issues included “ready to go” lesson sets and sources aligned with episodes of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ BackStory podcasts. In addition, Volume 29 of History Matters! featured information about our national conference and professional development offered by NCHE as part of our Teaching with Primary Sources grant from the Library of Congress. According to the survey, our members value History Matters! In order to ensure that this valuable communication source continues, we encourage members to make suggestions about content they would like to see in History Matters! and to contribute to the publication.

Members’ Priorities
            Based on the responses in the survey, our members’ priorities and needs are clear: NCHE members seek additional professional development opportunities, quality curriculum materials like those created for Backstory, and continued partnership with other organizations like the Army Heritage and Education Center, illustrated here. While members indicated they would be willing to participate in online-professional development, most respondents prefer on-site professional development opportunities. As the links in the text above indicate, our organization continues to make “More History, Better Taught” our priority by providing members with opportunities for various forms of professional development. As always, we seek to do more. Members at the high school level noted that NCHE can improve its focus with respect to supporting world history teachers, and many elementary level teachers drew attention to the challenges they face with the existing “expanding horizons” curriculum and the general lack of attention paid to the teaching of history in the elementary schools.  Regardless of grade level taught or content focus, members also identified a need for more connections among members in the history education community. These needs pertain specifically to the day-to-day aspects of teaching. In other words, members seek an informal environment in which they can discuss what worked in a lesson and why, what did not work and how to improve it, and ways to quickly and easily share materials. Our blog seeks to provide a starting point for such conversations, and we will seek to develop the blog and provide even more platforms through which history teachers can engage.
            A majority of respondents consider themselves minimally active in NCHE. We recognize the important role that an active and engaged membership plays in an organization’s success, and we welcome suggestions to help our members increase their participation level.
            One way members might consider increasing their active role in NCHE is through attending and presenting at our annual conference. In Atlanta in 2017, NCHE provided financial support to twenty teachers to help defray a portion of the cost of attending the conference. In an evaluation completed by conference attendees, individuals applauded the conference’s local excursions that focused on Atlanta’s rich history. Conference attendees also praised the “high quality presentations and focus on content along with pedagogy,” “the quality of presenters,” and the conference’s “intimacy and the role played by teachers.” One attendee noted, “When you leave, you walk away with actual materials and ideas you can take back and implement in classrooms. It’s not just people presenting their latest research, but people providing you with tools to help engage students.”
            NCHE’s Advocacy Committee thanks the individuals who responded to our October 2016 survey. We will use what we have learned from our members to continue to promote history education across the K-16 continuum and in the larger public sphere. We welcome further member feedback as we strive constantly for “More History, Better Taught.”