The Student As Historian – DBQ Resources and Strategies

New woman-wash day Over the last few weeks I’ve been guiding teams of teachers on reflective classroom walkthroughs. During the course of one of our “hallway discussions” I asked a social studies teacher, “who’s the historian in your classroom?” After a bit of give and take, we concluded that in the traditional classroom, the students get to watch (and listen) to the teacher be historian. 

That’s certainly what you would have seen early in my teaching career. I was the one doing most of the reading, reflecting and synthesizing of historic material. I thought my job was to distill it all and simplify for consumption by my students. It took me a few years to realize my job was to get the students to do the thinking.  I have spent my career developing teaching strategies and assembling resources that foster the student as historian. 

This downloadable SlideShare accompanies my workshop in “Teaching with Documents.” Don’t think of it as a presentation. It’s a online guide to resources and includes strategy illustrations from my workshop.

Link to presentation at SlideShare The Student As Historian

Image “The new woman – wash day”(1901) 
Library of Congress  cph 3b22851

2 Replies to “The Student As Historian – DBQ Resources and Strategies”

  1. Outstanding post, Peter. For teachers concerned about helping students master the skills they’ll need for life in the 21st century, your suggestions are essential. When we stop spoon-feeding students our own interpretations of historical events and instead equip them with literacy skills and the critical thinking abilities you argue for in your post, we’ll be on the way to producing thoughtful citizens capable of evaluating historical claims. What else should a history teacher do besides teach students how to think like a historian? It’s a no-brainer! Thank you for the reminder.

    I’ve written about this myself a bit on my blog at

    Mike Gwaltney

  2. Here’s some teacher responses to my most recent “Student as Historian” workshop.

    “I liked actually having participants ‘do’ activities – it makes it much easier to use in classroom the moment I get back to my class.”

    “Reminder of what is truly important for life-long learning.”

    “Many new strategies to implement. The variety of 2. 0 strategies were great. I never heard of most of them.”

    “Focusing on skills vs. content – content builds long-term success.”

    “Have students consider their audience. Even young students can do higher-order thinking.”

    “I like the comparison of ‘traditional’ teaching with what teaching needs to look like in the information age.”

    “I need to encourage critical thinking in my students and do much less spoon feeding.”

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