Decoding History: A Skills-Based Curriculum

The learning objectives assessments are exercises to help us determine what our students are learning. The assessments in this document are keyed to the learning objectives document. So if you have chosen to work on having students identify the evidence that supports an argument (2b), you will find a suggestion for an assessment under that number here. We have not provided examples of assessments for all of the individual skills enumerated here. However, for each table we have provided an example of at least one assessment in some detail.

Although we'll be assessing how well our students have achieved our objectives, it is important to remember that if the skill we are trying to teach is complex, not all of the students will achieve full mastery of it. Some students will, some will make progress toward mastery, and some will not make progress. The goal over time is to increase the number of students over time who make progress and/or to increase the amount of progress they make, but there will be a point of diminishing returns. Furthermore, sometimes we'll find that the students haven't really made significant progress, which typically happens with skills that we haven't broken down enough yet. This doesn't mean that the assessment was a failure. It has helped to point us in the direction where more work needs to be done (and we wouldn't know that without the assessment).

Arlene Diaz, Joan Middendorf, David Pace, & Leah Shopkow (2011). The History Learning Project: A developmental curriculum. Manuscript in progress.
The set of skills included at each level were based on the investigations of the History Learning Project. Using the Decoding the Disciplines developed in the IU Freshman Learning Project, the HLP has worked since 2006 to identify major bottlenecks affecting learning in our classrooms.  Twenty-six faculty members at the Department of History, Indiana University have been interviewed since 2006, and a number of teaching modules to solve those bottlenecks have been tested since then.  In addition, in spring of 2008, 48 of the 50 History faculty completed a survey aimed at getting  current practices in courses across the four levels, and 189 syllabi of courses taught between 2003 and 2008 were collected and studied.  In fall of 2008, the history faculty discussed and provided feedback on the bottleneck skills at an all-day retreat.  This curriculum benefited from insights provided by Jeff Timmins (History Department, University of Lancashire) and John Savagian (History Department, Alverno College) and has been presented at conferences in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia.