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Stanford History Education Group wins two top awards

January 7, 2013
By Jonathan Rabinovitz
Reading Like a Historian
The prize-winning Stanford curriculum
Sam Wineburg
Sam Wineburg
School of Education's new high school curriculum gets kudos from nation's leading historians.

 The American Historical Association presented Jan. 4 two of its top awards to members of the School of Education’s Stanford History Education Group for its efforts to promote a high school history curriculum that draws on original source material rather than relying on textbooks.

“This is a great honor,” said Sam Wineburg, the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education, who directs the Stanford History Education Group. “What makes it particularly noteworthy is that the AHA gives two awards annually that touch on teaching, and we won both.”

Wineburg and his colleagues Daisy Martin and Chauncey Monte Sano were awarded the James Harvey Robinson Award for the best teaching innovation, digitally or in print, for their book Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms. Martin and Monte Sano, who both earned their PhDs from the School of Education, co-founded with Wineburg the Stanford History Education Group, where this new approach to teaching history was developed. Martin is now a senior researcher at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity, and Monte Sano an associate professor of history and social studies education at the University of Michigan.

The book shows teachers how to use original source material, such as primary documents, charts, graphic organizers, visual images and political cartoons, to encourage students to ask questions and draw conclusions about historical events. Each chapter begins with an introductory essay that sets the stage of a key moment in American history, beginning with exploration and colonization of North America and ending with the Cuban Missile Crisis. It then offers source material to explore these subjects, as well as suggesting additional resources on the Internet and offering guidance for assessing students’ understanding of core historical ideas. The book is aligned with new Common Core state standards, which emphasize analysis and critical thinking.

The American Historical Association also presented the William Gilbert Award for the best article on teaching history to Avishag Reisman, who played a leading role in developing the Reading like a Historian curriculum while completing her doctorate at the School of Education. Titled “The Document Based Lesson,” the article presents the findings of Reisman’s study of the effects of the curriculum at five schools in the San Francisco Unified School District where it was introduced in 2008. She found that students gained significantly in historical thinking, factual knowledge and reading comprehension.

Reisman is currently a visiting assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.