Best Practices for History Teaching

Despite most of us not having formal training in history pedagogy, we need to be current in our practices regarding effective teaching. The following quote concerns K12 social studies teachers but readily applies to our teaching at Worcester State, regardless of topic:

“In terms of rich and innovative techniques, there has been a steadily expanding stream of scholarship in history education over the past two decades that has challenged the traditional, teacher-centered, ‘sit-and-get’ lecturing techniques. Even in an era beset by teacher accountability and high stakes testing mandates, historical thinking, conflict resolution, document-based questioning, historiographical analysis and inquiry-based projects have emerged (or re-emerged) as techniques that contribute to our collective knowledge and skills for engaging students in history that sticks. Citing and employing one or more of these dynamic approaches, social studies teachers and scholars alike have explored theoretical bases and practical ways and means for making real-world connections to content, emphasizing narrative and scales of time, fostering inquiry by teaching historical complexity, and confronting hyper-nationalist or ideological history curriculum.” (Lovorn and Dristas, 332).

A 1969 address to the American Historical Association is still fresh and relevant in our context:

“The notion that students must first be given facts and then at some distant time in the future will ‘think’ about them is both a cover-up and a perversion of pedagogy… One does not collects facts [she or] he does not need, hang onto them, and then stumble across the propitious moment to use them. One is first perplexed by a problem and then makes use of facts to achieve a solution.” (Calder, 1362).

Lendol Calder’s practical article introduces uncoverage (rather than the polite fiction of total “coverage”) as a way to re-think the traditional lecture-based teaching paradigm. An uncoverage model instead uses inquiry, analysis, and the process of constructing historical knowledge as the organizing principles for survey teaching. The work of Sam Wineburg at the Stanford History Education Group has been important to this discipine-wide revision of pedagogical best practices, especially for beginning learners and intro courses. And the work-in-progress Tuning Core document from the American Historical Association can be used to help you think about what the introductory skills and concepts might be for your class — and how they fit into a larger framework of historical thinking skills we try to help all our students develop, no matter what their major.


Lendol Calder, “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” Journal of American History March 2006, 1358-1370.

Michael Lovorn and Veronica Dristas, “The Mt Lebanon Project: Partnering to Re-Envision the Teaching of World History,” The History Teacher May 2017, 50 (3): 321-330.

World Civilization Courses

We have a three-course World Civ sequence, divided temporally: HI 103 is up to 1500; HI 104 is 1500-1914, and HI 105 is 1914-present.

History Major / Minor Program Outcomes
LASC Governance Descriptors for World Civ 103, 104, and 105
MassTransfer Pathways SLOs for World Civ
Examples of World Civ Course Assessments

US History Courses

Our US History is a two-course sequence, divided at the Civil War / Reconstruction era.

History Major / Minor Program Outcomes
LASC Governance Descriptors for World Civ 103, 104, and 105
MassTransfer Pathways SLOs for World Civ
Examples of US History Course Assessments

Political Science Foundation Courses

PO 110 American Government
PO 120 Global Politics
PO 130 Introduction to Political Theory
PO 150 Foundations of Legal Studies