The Paper Problem

A staple of every history class that I have had from elementary school to today is the dreaded research paper. More often than not, in my experience, history courses have found themselves in a set pattern of going from lectures on historical events and people, taking notes on said lectures, and then the class finally culminates in a term paper. The problem with this cycle is twofold: it lacks interesting and creative ways of teaching students that allows them to engage with the history rather than just being told facts and this cycle typically leaves interaction and engagement with the history in question to the term paper.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that these term papers are important for their use in helping students construct arguments and build critical thinking skills as well as learning how to identify “good” primary and secondary sources. There is no question that these papers are important, but where my problem lies with such papers is that, in my experience, a good many of the teachers I have had have made them the only source of historical interaction between lectures.

My goal as a teacher is to break this cycle and hopefully make history class more fun again. I plan to have my students interact with historical documents and voice their opinions on the matter, have interesting and immersive activities, and debates on a given topic we are learning to bounce ideas off one another on what we think on any given article or historical document.

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