Outcomes of History Instruction: Paste-up Accounts
Isabel L. Beck and Margaret G. McKeown University of Pittsburgh
We are reading researchers who have spent a considerable amount of time over the last half dozen years engaged in a program of research about elementary social studies learning, with emphasis on young students' first formal encounter with American history. As reading researchers, our primary interest is the kind of learning that results from students' encounters with text. Given that text is a focal component of the instructional resources used to teach history, coming to understand what young students learn about history from text was a natural object of investigation.
Our research involved an in-depth analysis of a widely used elementary textbook series ( Beck, McKeown, & Gromoll, 1989) and three studies that empirically investigated two major problematic features identified in textbook analysis ( Beck, McKeown, Sinatra, & Loxterman 1991; McKeown & Beck, 1990; McKeown, Beck, Sinatra, & Loxterman, 1992). The first feature was the texts' assumption of an unrealistic variety and depth of prior knowledge from target-age students. The second feature was presentation of text content that was not coherent. By coherent text we mean text in which the sequencing of ideas makes sense and the nature of the ideas and their relationships is made apparent.
In the studies that followed from the text analysis, we attempted to determine the extent to which inappropriate assumed background knowledge and lack of coherence were problems for target-age students, as well as to create and evaluate strategies to reduce the problems. In this chapter we synthesize the findings from the text analysis and subsequent empirical studies and extend issues raised in that work by considering some new, longitudinal data.