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Center for Instructional Support

Investigating History

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Investigating History is an innovative, open-source history/social science curriculum that DESE is currently developing for third through seventh grades. It is designed to be fully aligned to the Massachusetts 2018 History/Social Science Framework , engaging students with its content, practice, and literacy standards through an inquiry-based approach.

Investigating History is designed around four key principles, elaborated further in the curriculum's design specifications :

Historical Inquiry and Investigation icon

Historical Inquiry and Investigation

Historical Empathy and Human Connections icon

Historical Empathy and Human Connections

Civic Engagement and Current World Relevance icon

Civic Engagement and Current World Relevance

Culturally Affirming Pedagogies icon

Culturally Affirming Pedagogies

The development process includes ongoing input and collaboration with teacher and scholar advisors. This year, a pilot cohort of educators and students across Massachusetts is using the materials in their classrooms and providing intensive feedback throughout the year.

We anticipate being able to share the first Investigating History units for grades five, six, and seven in Spring 2023 and releasing the remaining units for these grades on a rolling basis throughout the 2023-24 school year. The third and fourth grade materials are tentatively slated for release in the 2024-25 school year.

If you have any questions about Investigating History, please email InvestigatingHistory@mass.gov .

Why create Investigating History?

Expanding access to high-quality, standards-aligned curricular materials can significantly improve student outcomes, especially when teachers have the professional learning opportunities they need to skillfully implement those materials to meet the specific needs of their students, families, and communities. Research suggests that if instructional materials are engaging, challenging, culturally relevant, and aligned to learning standards, they can improve student achievement by an amount comparable to a half-year of extra learning time. The Center for Instructional Support at DESE is committed to ensuring that all students in Massachusetts reap the benefits of strong curricular materials.

In recent years, DESE has provided a wide array of resources and supports to assist educators in identifying, selecting, and implementing existing, high-quality instructional materials in other content areas. Yet there has been a dearth of high-quality materials available for history and social science, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels, and particularly with regards to materials that are aligned to the Massachusetts content standards. As a result, history and social science educators across Massachusetts often spend considerable time and effort creating materials from scratch. We hope that Investigating History can support history educators and students statewide by providing them with strong, comprehensive curricular materials.

How can educators and the public be assured of the quality of Investigating History materials?

Each Investigating History unit goes through a rigorous development process before it is released to the public. Curriculum writers initially consult with subject-matter experts to ensure that the curriculum reflects the most accurate and up-to-date scholarship. Once drafted, materials are then vetted by numerous reviewers including historians, experts in social studies pedagogy, and Massachusetts teachers.

Curricular units are then piloted in classrooms across the state, reflecting a diversity of geography, student demographics, and teacher experience. Throughout the pilot, an independent, third-party evaluation team draws on classroom observations and artifacts, as well as interviews with teachers and students, in order to provide recommendations for improvement. Ultimately, when the materials are published, they will have gone through multiple rounds of piloting, feedback, and revision in order to ensure their quality and usability in classrooms.

When will Investigating History be available to the public? Will it cost money?

Investigating History is currently being piloted in 38 districts across Massachusetts, and access to the materials is currently limited to the pilot schools through the 2022-23 school year.

When released, Investigating History will be an open-source curriculum: free and available to anyone to use and modify. We currently anticipate published Investigating History on the following timetable:

  • In Spring 2023, we will have preview versions of the first unit of the year for grades five, six, and seven to help inform districts' choices about adoption and implementation.
  • Throughout the 2023-24 school year, we will publish the complete set of curricular materials for grades five, six, and seven; this will begin in late summer 2023 and continue on a rolling basis through the school year.
  • The third and fourth grade materials will be developed and piloted in a small number of classrooms through the 2023-24 school year and are currently slated for release beginning in Summer 2024.
When Investigating History is published, will schools be required to use it?

DESE does not mandate that schools or districts use any specific curricular materials. Investigating History is intended to provide schools with a vetted, high-quality curriculum and professional development option that is directly aligned to the Massachusetts History and Social Science Framework. Whether to adopt these resources will be a decision made on a local level.

For teachers, schools, and districts who do choose to use the Investigating History materials, DESE is committed to helping them implement the curriculum thoughtfully within their given context, including identifying, training, and certifying professional development providers who are equipped to support districts and schools with the adoption and use of the materials. Depending on availability, grant funding may also be offered to cover some of the costs of implementing Investigating History.

What content is covered in Investigating History?

Initially, Investigating History will comprise twelve units across fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. The content covered in each unit is grounded in the grade-level content standards of the 2018 History/Social Science Framework :

  • Grade 5:
    • Early Colonization and the Growth of Colonies
    • Revolution and Principles of United States Government
    • The Growth of the Republic
    • Slavery, the Legacy of the Civil War, and the Struggle for Civil Rights for All
  • Grade 6:
    • Human Origins
    • The Middle East and North Africa
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Central America, the Caribbean, and South America
  • Grade 7:
    • Central and South Asia
    • East Asia
    • Southeast Asia and Oceania
    • Europe

The scope and sequence for the Grades 3 and 4 courses is still in development, but these courses will cover the entirety of the grade-level content standards at these grade levels.

When challenging topics like racism, prejudice, and bigotry appear in these content standards, the materials and professional development are thoughtfully designed to support teachers in engaging in honest, informed conversations surrounding these issues. To this end, the curriculum will address not only instances of racial oppression and prejudice in developmentally appropriate ways, but also highlight the individuals and movements who have challenged it, and the way in which diversity has been and continues to be a strength of our nation.

Will DESE expand Investigating History to cover additional topics and grade levels in the future?

Currently, the focus of this work through 2024-25 is on developing complete, comprehensive, year-long curricular materials for grades 3 through 7. Depending on capacity, funding, and interest, it is possible that the project will expand to additional grade levels in the future.

Who is DESE working with to develop Investigating History?

DESE's lead partners in developing the curricular materials and associated professional development are Primary Source, a nonprofit organization based in the Boston area that has worked to advance global education in schools for more than thirty years, and Educurious, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that specializes in project-based curriculum and professional learning. The pilot curriculum evaluation is being conducted by researchers at Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

As part of this work, DESE has also worked with faculty from University of Massachusetts Boston's College of Education and Human Development, who led development of the design specifications for the materials, as well as researchers from Boston University's Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

Last Updated: January 31, 2023

 
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