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ERIC Number: EJ837181
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Aug
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 3
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Assessing Student Understanding in Introductory Courses: A Sample Strategy
Voelker, David J.
History Teacher, v41 n4 p505-518 Aug 2008
Many assume that studying history will mean memorizing a mass of mind-dulling minutiae. Furthermore, they mistake history as relatively clear cut, as suggested by the maxim: "It either happened or it didn't." From their point of view, historians who move beyond simple chronicling seem to be throwing around mere "opinions." Unfortunately, the pedagogical and assessment strategies of many large introductory courses can reinforce rather than correct these errors. For quite some time, however, a growing number of historians have been quietly changing the way they teach introductory college courses by deemphasizing coverage for coverage's sake, by relying less heavily on lecturing, and by presenting students with a greater variety of both primary and secondary sources. While the move away from coverage raises many important questions about course design, it brings special challenges for assessing student learning, especially in introductory classes, which tend to enroll large numbers of students. History instructors have developed plenty of methods for accomplishing this higher-level assessment, but most of them require substantial writing on the part of students and thus generate a heavy grading load. In this article, the author discusses how to assess student's historical understanding in introductory courses. He presents an assessment tool called "For and Against," which he developed from a rework on his own introductory courses to prioritize understanding over coverage. The author believes that For and Against provides a means of assessing students' ability to apply knowledge to the authentic task of evaluating a historical claim according to the standards of the discipline. (Contains 17 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A