Inquiry in History

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Inquiry in History

What does inquiry look like in History? What distinguishes History classrooms at Cate? What are the main aspects of our History program?

Foundational Principles and Distinctive Features of the History Program at Cate

  • 9th Grade Humanities is an inter-disciplinary, inquiry-based course combining English and History, focused on Western Civilization. The course sequence continues with the common experience of World History for 10th grade, U.S. History for 11th, and the choice of advanced electives, most of which are inquiry-driven.
  • Each course or unit begins with an inquiry investigation and then provides additional inquiry opportunities, like the 3 research-based inquiry projects and the Model U.N. Day in Sophomore World History, and the independent research projects and presentations in U.S. and Advanced U.S. History.
  • Advanced electives are inquiry driven and several pursue interdisciplinary topics. Recent and upcoming history electives include the Supreme Court, Comparative Revolutions, Contemporary Geopolitics, Anthropological Perspectives, 20th Century African-American Experience, Comparative Religions, Contemporary American Politics, Modern Middle East, Gender Matters, Radical Californians, Lincoln, and Economics.

Student Skills and Learning Responsibilities

  • Observe, question, infer, and interpret “artifacts.”
  • Formulate questions using a questioning framework.
  • Respond to and assert their own ideas.
  • Consider their own modern perspective versus historical perspectives.
  • Research and connect historical developments.
  • Analyze and connect historical documents. Communicate verbally during discussion and in writing through papers, essays, and assessments.
  • Become architects of their own learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

Students learn to think like an historian by:

  • Understanding differences and distinctions in eras and cultures, as well as the complexity of historical developments, including competing narratives.
  • Comparing the meaning of an event at the time versus the significance for us today.
  • Weighing various perspectives and interpretations of historical developments.
  • Weighing the validity of sources both on their own and also relative to other documents.
  • Analyzing primary sources or artifacts in larger historical and chronological context.
  • Observing and posing questions about “artifacts” then using their own questions for discussion and for writing.

Teaching Practices and Pedagogy

Cate History teachers:

  • Design curriculum so that students can explore before explain.
  • Begin units by providing an artifact which can be a literary document, a work of art, an architectural structure, a map, data, music or image. Students then observe and pose questions about the artifact, then generate their own questions for discussion and writing.
  • Rely on primary sources for instruction.
  • Allow students to generate questions and collaborate with each other to drive the discussion.
  • Encourage students to generate their own research questions and topics.
  • Teach specific content through different perspectives.
  • Provide opportunities for students to connect their individual identities and interests to historical developments.
  • Help students relate the significance of historical developments to today’s issues.
  • Provide cognitive routines to help students develop awareness of inquiry methods and practices.