Stearns, Peter N. “Putting Learning Research to Work: The Next Step in History Teaching.” Issues in Education 4.2 (1998): 237-243. Retrieved March 2, 2002, from Academic Search Elite database.
Putting Learning Research to Work: The Next Step in History Teaching
In response to James Voss’s article, “Issues in the Learning of History,” historian Peter Stearns provides the reader with his reactions to this comprehensive work.
Stearns first addresses the goals of history teaching and agrees with Voss in recognizing existing disagreements by both teachers and students over exactly what kind of history should be studied. In addition to comprehending the development of national institutions and trends that involve a variety of materials, Stearns urges coverage goals that include international perspectives and comparative issues. He also places a strong emphasis on skill components and believes students should have the ability to use evidence, assess interpretations and analyze change.
In the area of learning research, Stearns is surprised at the lack of comparison work, especially in reference to the common dogma of American exceptionalism. Another concern Stearns addresses is the current focus on historical significance. Unlike many current scholars and researchers, he does not share the current interest with research on what students bring to the history classroom, though he does admit knowing what topics are of interest to students may be useful in some initial exercises.
Lastly, as the next logical step following the Voss summary and to improve learning outcomes, Stearns urges the bridging of the gap between learning researchers and teacher practitioners. Stearns also supports further research and writes, “…in framing research, we need more attention to explicit experiments designed to accelerate appropriate historical skills development, with assessment of results against more standard control groups” (236).