Pay It Forward: Teacher Candidates’ Use of Historical Artifacts to Invigorate K-12 History Instruction

Scott M. Waring, Cheryl Torrez, George Lipscomb


The history education literature is replete with a call to help teachers understand that history should be taught as being inquiry-based and interpretive. We are encouraged, and rightfully so, to do history, to perform history, to do democracy, and to motivate students for inquiry and action by using primary sources. The authors developed a unit of study for history and social studies teacher candidates that would address several issues: (a) motivate and inspire future teachers to use inquiry as a tool to build K-12 students’ historical understanding and facilitate purposeful utilization of artifacts with ease; (b) help future teachers increase their knowledge of local history; and (c) present a unit that could be easily used in a secondary history course and, with some modifications, could be adapted for elementary and middle school history classrooms. The assignment was named Pay it Forward: Invigorating Instruction through Local History. This multifaceted assignment included the development of a lesson plan that would (a) demonstrate a robust understanding of engaging students in historical inquiry and local history, and (b) focus on an artifact that the teacher candidate would find as part of the investigation. The majority of the teacher candidates in this study did show evidence of, albeit limited at times, designing curriculum that encouraged K-12 students to engage in historical inquiry. Making the bridge between theory and practice, or showing evidence of learning from the methods courses, was clearly evident across the lesson plans.


History; Social Studies; Primary Sources

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