Some confusion exists about the appropriate level of teacher involvement in student projects. At the recent Educators Workshop, held at Connecticut’s Old State House in September, we spent some time discussing the subject and I’d like to share that information for those who could not attend the Workshop.
A project must reflect the work of the student (s) and the student must conduct the research, do the analysis and create the project. However, like any other project, it is the role of the teachers to coach their students. Students should not show up at a Regional Contest having never had an adult review their work.
One of the best ways that teachers can help their students is by asking questions throughout the CHD process.
Teachers can assist students by introducing them to good research techniques and the variety of sources that can be accessed, discussing how to write a strong thesis statement, and encouraging students to seek feedback on their work. Having regular checkpoints is key to a successful CHD project.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to keep students on track is to do a five minute conference. I ask the student three questions.
From these three questions, I am able to discern whether the student is on track with their research. Are they using good secondary and primary sources? Are there types of sources they should explore? Do they need other points of view represented? What is the barrier being broken? What is the impact of the topic? Answering these questions helps guide students in improving their work.
One of the most challenging aspects of CHD is for teachers to have the time to give feedback to all of the participating students. Consider having students give peer to peer feedback. Or, invite your colleagues to assist you in reviewing projects and giving feedback on projects. Some schools do this by hosting an in-house History Day event.
I’ve heard some teachers say they don’t give any feedback to students as that is “against the rules.” It is NOT against the rules to coach your students so that they learn and gain skills from creating a CHD project. Like any other project, the teacher does not do the work, but they do guide students.
- Rebecca Taber-Conover, Connecticut History Day State Coordinator