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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Were I Bruce VanSledright's editor, I might have suggested a different title for The Challenge of Rethinking History Education; something along the lines of Roadmap for a Revolution: Redeeming History Education in the 21st Century. As it is, VanSledright's tour de force provides fodder for the adage about not judging a book by its cover. Not that the title is a misnomer, for the book does richly examine practices, theory and policy. It just doesn't do the importance of the book justice. In a nutshell, "Challenge" runs the gamut of exploring what it means to teach history with disciplinary integrity (theory), how to do it (practice), and why we are not doing it (policy).

VanSledright begins by identifying his historical antecedent for history education reform: the Amherst history education project of the 1950's-mid'70's, which advocated teaching history as evidence-based and interpretive. He describes forces that prevented the success of that movement, and ultimately concludes that the greatest challenge to teaching history with disciplinary integrity in the U.S. lies in changing, expanding and improving pre-service teacher education, so that teachers learn what they "need to know in order to teach in ways that resemble an investigative approach." (p.37)

Using this book to support and inform the people willing to tackle this challenge, VanSledright describes knowing, teaching and learning history through the eyes of an imaginary, ideal teacher. Those who are familiar with VanSledright's existing instructional models from previous articles will recognize them here, for much of this book is a synthesis of existing research and theory in history education, as well as descriptions of the author's instructional interventions which have been informed by that research and theory.

After explicating what history teachers need to know, VanSledright turns his attention to why they are not taught what they need to know, or supported to implement effective instruction in K-16 history classes. The final chapter of "Challenge" identifies various institutional barriers to improving history teacher preparation, and offers remedies or alternatives to the policies that erect and sustain the barriers.

Ultimately, VanSledright lucidly makes the case for teaching history with disciplinary integrity, informs his theoretical and instructional models with exhaustive and fine-tuned knowledge of existing research, and brilliantly identifies and articulates alternatives to institutional policies that perpetuate the dismal status quo in history teacher preparation and classroom practice.
This is a book that breaks new ground in exploring the scope of what it means to revolutionize history education. It is an essential read for academics in the history and social studies education milieus. It is a guide for historians seeking concrete strategies to engage their students in history as an evidence-based, interpretive discipline; and it is a guide for methods teachers seeking A) to help their students understand the relationship between theory and practice, and B) straightforward models on which their students may eventually base their daily lessons in their own classrooms.

I would like to recommend it for undergraduates and in-service teachers, as well, but suspect many would founder on the shoals of the book's theory explications. In light of the potential limit of the book's appeal, I encourage VanSledright to simplify his descriptions of theory into brief distillations and design an effective way(s) to share his inspired and research-informed instructional models with the wide audience of history teachers via a teacher's handbook format, or perhaps online delivery. With a bit of adaptation and creative formatting, this important work might reach and influence many more people than it will in its current academic form.
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on January 20, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Was purchased for someone else.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Excellent - a great book, very useful, as a teacher of History it was invaluable, skills and tasks great for students.
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