A Guided Approach to Historical Inquiry in the K-12 Classroom
What is a History Lab?
In this video students and teachers describe the benefits of History Labs. Their enthusiasm speaks volumes about how the History Labs approach increases student engagement, promotes critical reading and thinking skills, and leads to thoughtful, persuasive writing assignments.
A preponderance of research in the field of history education has demonstrated that effective teaching of the subject relies on active student learning of the reading, writing and analytical skills involved in historical inquiry. By actively investigating the past, rather than passively memorizing ready-made facts or accounts assembled by others, students strengthen their critical reading and writing skills, and improve their ability to handle and retain vital content information. They also develop a sense of control and ownership of the knowledge they assemble that fosters genuine and lasting interest in the subject.
History Labs are research and investigative learning experiences that provide teachers with the necessary information, resources, and procedures to teach a full range of historical thinking skills by taking students through a process that is methodologically similar to that employed by historians.
In a History Lab, students:
Seek to answer an open-ended overarching question that permits multiple possible answers;
Analyze sources and apply information to develop answers to the overarching question;
Apply literacy skills in the reading, evaluation and analysis of historical sources;
Critically examine source materials for authorship and purpose, significant information, context and subtext, and multiple or conflicting perspectives;
Apply grade-level and ability-appropriate interpretive skills;
Adjust or modify the overarching question itself, as necessary;
Develop present, defend, and refine their evidence-based answers.
“[History Labs] breathe life into those facts.... You get a sense of the atmosphere of the time period.” —Teacher