Project Description

Teaching American History in South Carolina, Phase III

A Statewide Approach to Teacher Professional Development

The ultimate mission of this project is to raise student achievement in American History by improving teachers’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American History through a threefold approach: first, by teaching American History content to teachers; second, by exposing them to a wealth of local and state resources that can be used to teach American History, and; third, by developing a network of support and mentoring among teachers in the three regions participating in the project. To facilitate this threefold approach, a three-year cycle of professional development will be implemented, which includes summer workshops, post-institute teacher networking and mentoring support, a mid-year follow-up retreat, and dissemination of workshop materials.

This project proposes to mobilize existing resources to develop an integrated system of professional development for American History teachers in South Carolina using the summer institute format. The project is designed to: 1) link academic and public history resources at the state and local or regional levels to deliver content instruction; 2) provide an introduction to material culture and documentary resources available for effectively conveying content in the classroom.

Teaching American History in South Carolina seeks to integrate:

  • Existing university resources
  • A strong commitment (through the U.S.C. Public History program) to enhancing the understanding of history using the collections of public historical organizations;
  • Acknowledged excellence in teaching American History among a core group of state social studies teachers already using innovative material culture and documentary resources;
  • A rich fund of artifacts, documents, and historic sites strongly connected to major themes in American history such as the development of American social, political and cultural institutions; the struggle for independence and national identity; the growth of the American commercial and agricultural economy; the impact of sectional struggle over slavery and state's rights; the ongoing transformation of race relations; the role of women and minorities; and the emergence of a modern society.
  • Stewardship of those primary resources by a statewide network of cultural and historical institutions staffed by public history professionals committed to working with teachers
  • A comprehensive educational digital Web site and database of teaching materials, including many history resources, recently developed by South Carolina Educational Television's (ETV), Creative Services, who also develops Web sites and content for Knowitall.org.

By linking statewide resources to deliver instruction locally to teachers within specific geographic regions, this project seeks to develop a model for improving both content knowledge and innovative teaching methodologies that can be used statewide. Such a model of balancing state coordination with local instruction should prove useful to other states as well.

A significant component of the project is engaging master scholars to develop the syllabus and curriculum materials for the summer institutes. The curriculum will include components of American History to be used in all of the regions. Master teachers will help participating teachers combine that shared instruction with more local resources at museums, sites, and manuscript collections. During midyear weekend retreats, teachers who participated in the previous summer's institutes will use the common core of content instruction as a benchmark to evaluate their new techniques and to share the differing teaching materials they have developed.

Two other aspects of the project will contribute significantly to enhancement of teacher instructional skills. The plan designates the services of American History graduate students at U.S.C. to serve on a continuing basis in the year following the summer institutes as research assistants. These graduate assistants will help teachers use the skills learned in the summer institutes by identifying additional secondary studies or monographs, and primary source materials such as photographs or documentary records that will enhance lesson plans and improve classroom presentations.

Finally, the cumulative efforts of all of the two-week summer institutes will generate a significant body of teaching materials based on innovative approaches using documentary and material culture primary sources, along with lesson plans, development of testing materials, and other pedagogical tools. One of the key components of the project plan is transformation of those materials onto a web site available for teachers throughout the state to use. Although the connection to local people, places, and events will give this web site a special significance to South Carolina teachers of American History, its availability in a web environment will allow access by American History teachers nationwide.

The goals, objectives, and outcomes for this project, to take place in the three regions of the state of South Carolina are to:

  • Increase the knowledge of American History among South Carolina teachers certified in social studies at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Content presentation and work with participating cultural and historical institution partners will be delivered during two-week intensive institutes offered each summer in each of the three regions.
  • Enhance teachers' abilities to communicate their improved content knowledge by involving master teachers in the two-week summer institutes. These master teachers are already using innovative and stimulating approaches to teaching American History. Master teachers will be responsible during each institute for helping participating teachers develop teaching materials, teaching and artifact-based resources, and authentic assessments.
  • Increase the availability of innovative resources by calling on local or statewide cultural institutions such as museums, archives, historic sites, and historical societies. Staff from these institutions will share materials and information about their objects, sites, and documentary holdings that will complement national themes.
  • Develop a mentoring system in each of the three regions in which master teachers and master scholars will continue to serve as mentors and resources to participants in the summer institutes. Teachers enrolled in the summer institutes will also serve as mentors to others in their own schools or districts; high school and middle school teachers from Summer Institutes I and II will serve as mentors for elementary teachers in their districts enrolled in the third summer.
  • Create a web site incorporating the teaching resources (lesson plans, primary document teaching packets, strategies for using local institutional site or exhibit resources) developed in the three institutes.

The summer institutes combine content instruction in American History, teacher interaction with local and statewide cultural and historical institution staff, and opportunities for teachers in each region to create instructional materials.

For more information, see the following links:

  • TAHSC Grant Narrative, Phase III (26-page PDF File)
  • TAHSC Grant Narrative, Phase II (28-page PDF File)
  • TAHSC FACTS, Phase I & II (PDF File)
  •