The Value of Using Primary Source Documents in the History Classroom
This essay attempts to explore what a valuable teaching resource primary source documents are for teachers. History education is becoming, and rightly so, less focused on students learning "the facts" and more centered on discovering the broad themes and concepts in history. Teachers should center more of their teaching strategies on helping students discover deeper meanings, reconstruct history and develop critical and analytical skills for themselves. Using primary source documents as an integral part of the curriculum leads to more student engagement in the material and develops crucial thinking, reading, writing, collaboration and communication skills. Not only do documents help teachers reconstruct the past for their students, but they also help the learner develop cognitive skills they will need as they continue their education. Moving from lecture-based classrooms to classes that emphasize discovery-learning creates an environment that encourages students to become independent thinkers and learners. Teachers need to spend time teaching students how to critically read documents, and then need to develop assessments that test both the students' understanding of the content, as well as the skills they use during the tasks.