Teacher educators and curriculum designers will explore curated sets of digitized historical documents freely available online that can be used to create lessons for students—and their teachers. Digitized primary sources, from manuscripts and maps to patents and photographs, are increasingly available for classroom use through institutions like the Library of Congress. The workshop will (1) showcase the range of resources available online, (2) support participants in constructing knowledge using primary sources in modeled learning activities, and (3) spur dialogue about goals and scaffolds for teaching teachers and students with primary sources.
Relevance to Science Teacher Education
Primary sources from our past can be used to support a number of learning goals in science classrooms. First, students and teachers can compare texts to explore how scientific models and explanations of phenomena have changed over time. Example sets of sources from the Library relate to the emerging evidence to support a theory of plate tectonics (Smith, 2015) and changing conceptions about the structure of the universe (Wesson, 2014). Second, primary sources can shed light on the practices of scientists, such as Hooke’s use of the microscope and his observations (Apfeldorf, 2015) or Marie Tharp’s use of data to draw maps of the ocean floor (Smith, 2015). Third, beyond being windows into science content and practices, primary sources can open up broader inquiries at the intersections of society, technology, engineering, and science (e.g., Apfeldorf, 2016; Smith, 2015; 2016a; 2016b).
Instead of simply telling students and teachers stories as a secondary source like a textbook might, primary sources invite comparison, corroboration, close reading, and the use of other thinking skills that support knowledge construction (Wineburg, 2010). Analyzing historical documents involves more than just learning history; it can help teach students how to evaluate sources (Wineburg, 2016). Further, primary sources can support extended, cross-disciplinary inquiries that are meaningful to students (Stripling, 2003) and that might result in students “taking informed action” (NCSS, 2013). Finally, primary sources not only highlight and historicize practices of scientists (Duschl, 1990; NRC, 2012) but also provide entryways into moral and ethical decision-making in science education (Sadler, 2004). In sum, arguments for improving science education are often grounded in discourse around civic participation (Roberts, 2007; Trefil, 2007) and for improving scientific and technological literacies (Bybee et al., 1991). Primary sources can support both learning about and learning to do science (Roberts, 2007) in robust and connected ways.
This workshop is designed for methods instructors and curriculum developers in particular because facilitators will model analysis of primary sources and strategies that can be used with teachers and students to support further inquiry. Instead of providing entire curriculum units, facilitators will offer curated sets of primary sources, texts written for practitioners, and strategies for promoting knowledge construction and critical thinking that participants can modify and integrate into existing courses and curricula.
John F. Smith was the 2015-16 Science Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress and is currently a PhD student in the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. John previously taught middle and high school science, engineering, and social studies for seven years in Philadelphia public schools and also taught science methods courses in Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses in part on science teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about interdisciplinary teaching and their uses of history primary sources in planning lessons.
Michael Apfeldorf is an Educational Resources Specialist at the Library of Congress, where he designs and facilitates professional development on teaching with primary sources. Michael leads the curation of primary source sets for science teachers and regularly blogs for the Library about teaching with primary sources in STEM contexts. He has also published pieces on teaching with primary sources for NSTA (The Science Teacher), NCSS (Social Education), and NAfME (Music Educators Journal).
Participants will (I) use Library of Congress tools and other thinking routines (Ritchhart & Perkins, 2008) to analyze primary sources; (II) access primary sources, tools, and primary source sets from the Library of Congress; and (III) articulate goals for student and/or teacher learning that can be supported with analysis of primary sources.
To assess these learning goals, facilitators will invite written reflections from participants at the close of the workshop about (1) planned uses of sources and strategies in future work, (2) key takeaways from the workshop, and (3) remaining questions about teaching with primary sources.
Connecting with Primary Sources: What kinds of primary sources are available, and why might science teachers teach with them? Facilitators will curate a set of 40 primary sources that address a range of topics and that come in a range of formats (i.e., maps, newspaper articles, photographs). The initial set will include items from loc.gov, wdl.org, congress.gov, and chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Participants will view the set in a gallery walk format, writing “noticings” and “wonderings” on Post-it notes. Participants will select one item from the set that intrigued them and/or that they felt a connection to. Participants will share with others why they selected the item (e.g., prior knowledge, personal connection, teaching context or content) as well as introduce themselves to the group. Facilitators will then lead a brief discussion on what benefits participants think there might be to teaching with primary sources in science classrooms. Facilitators will record reflections on a shared Google doc to be shared with participants. The goal here is to introduce participants to the diversity of primary sources available and to the expertise in the room amongst the participants.
Analyzing a Primary Source: How might teachers facilitate an analysis of a primary source? Participants will analyze a single primary source (e.g., a photograph that invites a lot of speculation) while the facilitator records participants’ ideas into observation, reflection, and question categories on chart paper. This will be a modeled activity that participants can use with teachers or build into curricula. After generating observations, reflections, and questions, participants will identity a set of questions seem most productive for further investigation. These two routines (observe-reflect-question as well as the identification of questions for a driving question board that would kick off a multi-day inquiry in a classroom) can be used with students or teachers. Following the modeled activity, participants will reflect on the teacher and student actions in these two routines. Facilitators will record these teacher and student actions on a shared Google doc. Facilitators will share some additional resources for facilitating these two routines that involve teacher and student talk moves. The goal of this portion of the workshop is to model and reflect on promising practices for looking closely at primary sources and using them as catalysts for engagement, critical thinking, and knowledge construction.
Planning with Primary Sources: Participants will break into groups of 3-4 and analyze a new primary source (or two). Participants will select sources from the original curated set of 40 or from sets of 4-5 additional related items. Additional item sets will include advertisements for lead paint from the early 1900s and electric cars from the late 1800s, journal writings by scientists and inventors, photographs of the effects of natural disasters on human communities and human impacts on environment. Providing choice will allow participants to select items that fit their interests and contexts. For example, photographs, posters, and newspaper articles from World War I show veterans with prosthetic limbs. These primary sources spark questions about propaganda and patriotism, the effects and costs of war, and constructions of masculinity and race, which may be appropriate for cross-disciplinary planning with history or English language arts teachers. Further, these same historical documents invite exploration of scientific and engineering concepts, from structure and function, to human body systems and materials science tradeoffs. Participants will chart out ideas on poster paper and/or a shared Google doc first. Then, facilitators will share web links to additional resources that provide teaching ideas. For instance, John has artifacts from eleventh-grade history and anatomy and physiology classes where students engaged in multiple lines of inquiry with the World War I primary sources. Finally, small groups will share their thinking with the whole group about how and what students and/or teachers might learn by analyzing these primary sources. This structure will allow participants to share expertise and spend time applying some of what they are learning to their own contexts.
Accessing Primary Sources and Additional Resources: Where might teachers find digitized primary sources online, and what kinds of other resources does the Library provide to support teacher learning? Facilitators will walk participants through various portions of the Library’s website. The website includes curated primary source sets, curated historical newspaper sets, and lesson ideas for teachers. Additionally, there are resources available for planning professional development using Library materials, including grant opportunities and access to local groups that provide professional development for educators. The website also has a number of search tools. This portion of the workshop will allow for flexibility and can be shortened: a number of online resources can support participants in searching loc.gov. If more time is available, participants will spend that time using the site.
Sharing and Reflecting: What did we learn today? Participants will respond to three reflection prompts on the shared Google doc. Facilitators will lead a concluding discussion.
All of the resources, including curated sets of primary sources and blog posts written for education are available for free on the Library of Congress’s website: loc.gov/teachers. These resources also include online videos for teachers on how to search for primary sources and professional development guides that participants can use to design their own workshops for teachers: loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment.
Each summer, the Library’s Office of Education Outreach hosts week-long workshops for teachers and teacher educators. For the past three summers, one workshop has featured sources that relate to science, technology, and engineering. Participants will be encouraged to apply to these summer workshops, which Mike facilitates.
Additionally, the Library provides $20,000 grants to educators as well as support through regional partners for integrating primary sources into existing professional development: loc.gov/teachers/tps/regional. John has experience securing one of these grants and can provide feedback to participants who are interested in pursuing one. The grant-making regional partners also provide online supports for applicants.
Finally, the Library sponsors a consortium of partners. Workshop participants will be encouraged to make connections with consortium members, who provide additional programming, resources, and local support: loc.gov/teachers/tps/consortium. John will be able to make introductions between participants and consortium members if desired.