What Do History Teachers Want From the Blueprint?

Originally posted on March 22, 2011 by Shennan Hutton

In this final blog on the results of the Blueprint Needs Assessment Survey, I will discuss the answers to questions about teachers’ needs. These questions were designed to find out which of our planned developments teachers thought would be most useful. We want to focus on developing those elements first. One question asked about the types of assessment that teachers preferred. Their answers showed a clear preference for multiple-choice and short-answer questions (See the chart for Question 9.) Some teachers commented that while essays, projects and other performance-based assessments were educationally more valid, the stress on high-stakes testing made multiple-choice questions most desirable from a practical point of view. As one respondent put it, “Useful – no; required – yes.”
Question 9 Survey
Teachers could pick more than one answer on this question, and most chose several types of assessment. In the “other” category, teachers most often added projects to the list, but also mentioned presentations using powerpoint and other technologies, document-based questions, and various questioning strategies. 

Next, teachers were asked to rank the importance of different types of professional development training (see the chart for Question 10.) Since teachers could only choose one #1, one #2, etc., their answers clearly show their priorities. The highest priority for most was professional development on teaching strategies and resources to develop student analysis skills, closely followed by support for using historical documents in the classroom. These closely-related topics show that teachers want to focus on their students’ abilities to understand and analyze primary sources, engage in inquiry, and think historically. Teachers regarded gaining skill in these areas as more critical than assessments, content and literacy.
Question 10 Survey
The final question asked teachers to rate the potential usefulness of ten items (see the chart for Question 11.) Our Blueprint initiative will (eventually) include all of these items. For this question (unlike the previous one), teachers could give more than one option a #10 ranking. Thus, the total number of responses is much higher, and the sense of priorities is not as strong. Nevertheless, a clear pattern emerges: teachers put the greatest emphasis on organization of content around the California History-Social Science Content Standards, complete lesson plans, and detailed content and visuals. In the second rank are historical thinking skills, alignment with the Common Core and Analysis standards, assessments and academic literacy support. Most do not see on-line tools for parents as a priority.
Question 11 Survey
It’s interesting that teachers gave the highest priority to the types of content already available on other websites, and much less priority to items which are less available or entirely new. Perhaps this reflects teachers’ beliefs that what has been useful in the past would be even more useful in the future. It is also more difficult to envision how helpful formative assessments (that is, pre-tests and in-progress tests to evaluate student needs and modify instruction) would be, without experiencing the usefulness of those tools in the classroom. At present, assessments are primarily used for judging students and teachers, and rarely for aiding in instruction. Because teachers have not yet seen the direct benefits of an innovation to their students, they are skeptical about its usefulness. And they probably worry about the time such an innovation might exact from their already impossibly busy schedules. The Blueprint assessments and tools for parents must not add to the burdens carried by teachers.  Blueprint needs to make their difficult jobs easier, not harder.