UMBCCenter for History Education

ARCH

Assessment Resource Center for History

ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric

The Awakening - votes for Women The skills of historical thinking, which are among the most complex that students will encounter, are the cornerstone of the changes in history instruction. Teachers need tools to measure historical thinking skills when their students apply them. Combining the historical reading skills from the Stanford History Education Group, the work of Bruce VanSledright, and input from teachers who have measured these skills in the classroom, the Assessment Resource Center for History project has developed the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric for elementary and secondary instruction.

A rubric is a scoring tool for evaluating a student's performance. It is based on the sum of a range of criteria, rather than a single numerical score, with statements to guide raters. Rubrics can be used analytically or holistically. In analytic scoring, there is a separate score for each aspect of the product or performance. The scores are then summed for an overall score. In holistic scoring, a single score is based upon the overall impression of a product or performance. The ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric is designed to be used holistically.

Rubrics are either task-specific or general. According to Brookhart (2013), task-specific rubrics are used to assess a discrete task, whereas general rubrics assess multiple tasks around a general set of skills. There are several advantages to using general rubrics. They can be shared with students at the beginning and used with different tasks. General rubrics can also describe performance in terms that allow for different paths to success and focus the teacher’s attention on developing student skills, rather than simply on completing the task. Most importantly, a robust general rubric ensures consistency in measuring student growth across classrooms.

The ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric was designed along a continuum, moving from the more accessible to the most complex skills. The historical thinking skills are organized into strategies and procedural concepts. Strategies are tools for analyzing and interpreting historical documents. In the ARCH rubric, the strategies are close reading and some aspects of corroboration and contextualization. Procedural concepts are the comprehension and application of historical practices (VanSledright and Limon, 2006). They are represented by the categories of claim and evidence but also overlap with corroboration and contextualization.

The ARCH rubric can easily be adapted for a given task. For example, a teacher who is having students source documents as part of an analytical activity can use only the sourcing column to assess for understanding. It is not advisable to alter the rubric by adding language about specific numbers of sources, pieces of evidence, or any quantifiable attribute outside of the rubric score points. Teachers should be assessing for understanding, not task completion. Rubrics that include minimum numbers of a particular attribute are more like a checklist than a rubric.

Historical Thinking Skills Rubric for Elementary

Historical Thinking Skills Rubric for Secondary

Close-Reading Strategies

Secondary
Close-Reading Strategies
CriteriaSourcing
4
  • Identification: Fully understands the meaning and content of sources.
  • Attribution: Cites all authors and all original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Perspective: Evaluates the reliability of sources based on the author's perspective and when and why they were produced.
3
  • Identification: Mostly understands the meaning and content of the sources.
  • Attribution: Cites most authors and most original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Perspective: Examines the reliability of sources based on the author's perspective and when and why they were produced.
2
  • Identification: Understands the meaning and content of sources with the appropriate scaffolding and support.
  • Attribution: Cites some authors and some original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Perspective: Attempts to evaluate the reliability of sources.
1
  • Identification: Attempts to understand the meaning and content of sources with the appropriate scaffolding and support.
  • Attribution: Cites few authors and few original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Perspective: Does not adequately examine the reliability of sources.
Elementary
Close-Reading Strategies
CriteriaSourcing
4
  • Identifies all authors and original dates of a variety of primary and secondary sources.
  • Evaluates the reliability of sources based on the author's perspective and when and why they were produced.
3
  • Identifies most authors and most original dates of a variety of primary and secondary sources.
  • Examines the reliability of sources based on the author's perspective and when and why they were produced.
2
  • Identifies some authors and some original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Attempts to evaluate the reliability of sources.
1
  • Identifies few authors and few original dates of primary and secondary sources.
  • Does not attempt to evaluate the reliability of sources.

Strategies are the more readily attainable skills in historical thinking. These are classified in the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric as close reading.

Sourcing

Most students begin their analysis of historical texts by sourcing. Within this task, students engage in identification and attribution and determine the perspective.

In identification, students determine the overall meaning and content of the sources. For example, “This source is describing ______.”

In attribution, students cite the author or authors and the earliest dates for the various sources. They may also identify the types of sources (personal accounts, official reports, court proceedings, etc.).

Finally, they analyze the authors' perspective to determine the reliability and purpose of the sources. Wineburg (1991) states that sourcing is unique to the work of the historian and represents the first opportunity for students to interpret the past through critical analysis. African American women

Critical Reading

Secondary
Close-Reading Strategies
CriteriaCritical Reading
4
  • Questions the author's thesis and determines the viewpoint and evidence to evaluate the claims, highlighting what the author leaves out.
  • Cites accurate examples of how the author uses persuasive language and specific words and phrases to influence the reader.
  • Seeks answers to questions left unanswered in the source to formulate an interpretation.
3
  • Analyzes the author's thesis and determines the viewpoint and evidence to evaluate the claims; may highlight what the author leaves out.
  • Cites some examples of how the author uses persuasive language and specific words and phrases to influence the reader.
  • Notes that the author has left some questions unanswered.
2
  • States the author's claims and evidence presented to prove those claims.
  • Determines the author’s viewpoint.
  • Notes how language is used to persuade the reader.
1Attempts to identify the author’s claims, viewpoint, or evidence.
Elementary
Close-Reading Strategies
CriteriaCritical Reading (Author’s Craft)
4
  • Identifies the author's viewpoint and claims based on what is written and what the author leaves out.
  • Cites examples of how the author uses persuasive language and specific words and phrases to influence the reader.
3
  • Identifies the author's viewpoint and claims based on what is written.
  • Identifies at least one way the author attempts to influence the reader through persuasive language and specific words and phrases.
2
  • Attempts to identify the author's viewpoint and claim.
  • Attempts to identify how the author tries to influence the reader.
1Demonstrates little to no attempt to identify the author’s viewpoint or claim.

Critical reading is the second close-reading strategy identified in the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric. In this stage, students engage in a deeper analysis of text. They determine viewpoint and evaluate evidence to validate claims made by an author. Students begin to analyze the use of language: Is the author using particular words and phrases to influence the reader? Students also make judgments about questions left unanswered by the text.

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Corroboration and Contextualization

Corroboration

Secondary
Strategies/
Procedural Concepts
CriteriaCorroboration
4 Constructs an interpretation of events using information and perspectives in multiple sources. Identifies consistencies and inconsistencies among various accounts.
3 Explains similarities and differences by comparing information and perspectives in multiple sources.
2 Identifies similarities and differences in multiple sources.
1 Demonstrates little to no attempt to examine sources for corroborating or conflicting evidence.
Elementary
Strategies/
Procedural Concepts
CriteriaCorroboration
4Analyzes multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences.
3 Identifies similarities and differences by comparing information and perspectives in multiple sources.
2Identifies similarities and differences in two or more sources.
1 Demonstrates little to no attempt to examine sources for corroborating or conflicting evidence.

Next on the continnum of complexity are corroboration and contextualization. Students engage in corroboration by comparing multiple sources on the same topic to determine the historical interrelationships (Wineburg, 1991). They look for similarities in accounts that lead to a preponderance of evidence around a particular conclusion or theory. Corroboration is complex because it requires the analysis and interpretation of multiple sources in different forms of media. Corroboration also involves the close reading of these texts to determine potential bias, conflicting accounts, and reliability.

Contextualization

Secondary
Strategies/
Procedural Concepts
CriteriaContextualization
4 Applies prior and new knowledge to determine the historical setting of sources. Uses that setting to interpret the sources within the historical context, as opposed to a present-day mindset.
3 Applies prior and new knowledge to determine the historical setting of sources. May attempt an interpretation of some sources with a present-day mindset or with a limited application to the historical context.
2 Attempts to determine the historical setting of sources without fully understanding the historical context.
1 Demonstrates no attempt to understand the historical setting of sources.
Elementary
Strategies/
Procedural Concepts
Criteria Contextualization
4
  • Applies prior and new knowledge to determine the historical setting of sources.
  • Uses that setting to attempt an interpretation of the sources within that historical context, as opposed to a present-day mindset.
3
  • Applies prior and new knowledge to determine the historical setting of sources.
  • May attempt an interpretation of sources with a present-day mindset.
2 Attempts to determine the historical setting of sources.
1 Demonstrates no attempt to understand the historical setting of sources.

Contextualization is the most complex of the historical reading skills. Here, students must frame historical events within the context of the time period and surrounding events. Students are, in effect, expected to see the event through the eyes of someone from a past time. This kind of analysis requires an understanding of what VanSledright and Frankes (2000) refer to as foreground and background concepts. Foreground concepts are those that help students understand the key ideas around a historical period. Examples of foreground concepts are federalism and the supply-and-demand cycle. Background concepts are those that arise from study of the past. Examples of background concepts include causation, change and continuity, and looking at the world through the eyes of others. Students cannot place events in the context of a time period without these understandings. A lLaw of Maryland concerning religion

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Procedural Concepts

Procedural Concepts
CriteriaClaimEvidence
4 Formulates a plausible interpretation, argument, or claim based on an evaluation of the evidence found in a variety of primary and secondary sources. Justifies claims using appropriate direct evidence from a variety of reliable sources.
3 Generates a reasonable interpretation, argument, or claim based on an evaluation of the evidence found in selected primary and secondary sources. Justifies claims using some appropriate direct evidence from a variety of reliable sources.
2States an interpretation, argument, or claim that may or may not be based on the evidence found in selected primary and secondary sources. Justifies claims using generalizations or limited appropriate direct evidence.
1Does not state an original claim, argument, or interpretation. Does not justify or support claims using appropriate direct evidence.

The last two categories in the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric are referred to as procedural concepts. In these categories students apply their historical understandings through some type of task. While the application is often in the form of an argumentative essay, teachers can assess procedural concepts through any number of performance tasks, such as speeches, debates, letters, political cartoons, short documentaries, etc. Procedural concepts thus represent the final assessment of student understanding.

A claim is the final interpretation or argument made after a careful evaluation of the evidence. It is important to note that students may actually posit different plausible claims using the same set of sources. The use of evidence, either to support an argument or refute a counter argument, justifies the validity of a claim.

In the elementary version of the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric, the claim and evidence categories are optional. While some teachers will use the categories, others may find it not appropriate for the developmental levels of their students.

The ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric does not include writing conventions. Many school districts utilize rubrics to guide the writing process and are in the process of preparing new rubric tools to align with the Common Core Literacy Standards. The two national assessment consortia charged with developing items around the Common Core Standards have made writing rubrics available online. Writing rubrics can be used in addition to the ARCH Historical Thinking Skills Rubric for assessing formal writing assignments, such as argumentative essays at the secondary level or opinion-writing assignments at the elementary level.

Sources:
  • Stanford History Education Group. (2013). Reading Like a Historian.
  • VanSledright, B. & Frankes, L. (2000). Concept-and strategic-knowledge development in historical study: A comparative exploration in two fourth grade classrooms. Cognition and Instruction. 18 (2), 239-283.
  • VanSledright, B.A., & Limon, M. (2006). "Learning and teaching in social studies: Cognitive research on history and geography." In P. Alexander & P. Winne (Eds.), The Handbook of Educational Psychology, 2nd Ed. (pp. 545-570). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Wineburg, S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28, 495-519.
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