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The high school world history curriculum designed by Georgia Department of Education (2012) for the World History course of the state of Georgia is targeted at providing students with a comprehensive overview and study of the most prominent occurrences and themes that occurred in the course of the world history. The curriculum plan begins with introducing students to the events associated with the earliest global civilizations and continues with the examination of major events and developments that took place in all locations around the planet. Importantly, the curriculum concludes with the study of continuity and change that occurred at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Georgia Department of Education, 2012).
The text for each level in the curriculum is divided into specific themes that correspond with the events of global histories, such as “Societies in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean from 3500 BCE to 500 BCE,” “Achievements of Chinese and Indian societies from 1100 BCE to 500 CE,” “Political, philosophical, and cultural interaction of Classical Mediterranean cultures from 700 BCE to 400 CE,” and so on (Georgia Department of Education, 2012).
Students are expected to show their understanding of the selected themes included in the World History curriculum by using their skills and knowledge that they have acquired during the school year. However, understanding of the subjects is not the expected end goal of each lesson or unit included in the curriculum; rather, the end product of the outlined curriculum is the ongoing and long-term instruction that has been presented during the entire course. However, the strategies associated with teaching ELLs World History remain underdeveloped, so the analysis of the curriculum will aim to determine which aspects of the curriculum need improvement and which are suitable for ELLs.
Each component (chapter) in the World History curriculum is aimed at representing the connecting topics that can appear in several units throughout the entire course. The conventional understanding goes beyond the units of the course and increases students’ performance with regards to the acquisition and the retention of new knowledge. The following list includes topics (terms) targeted at enhancing students’ understanding:
- Conflict and Change: students will learn that when there were conflicts within and between different societies, the change was very soon to occur.
- Resolution of Conflicts: students are expected to learn that historically, societies resolved conflicts through military force, compromise (communication), or legal procedures.
- Culture: students will understand that culture is society’s combination of religious ideologies, beliefs, traditions, and customs.
- Governance: students are expected to learn that with the increases in societies’ complexity and interaction with other societies increases the complex nature of their governance.
- Institutions, Groups, and Individuals: during the course, students will learn that different actions of individuals, groups, and institutions have a direct impact on the societal outcomes as well as intended and involuntary consequences.
- Location: during the course, students will acquire knowledge about the importance of location as well as its impact on the overall development, and economy and culture specifically.
- Migration (Movement): students are expected to understand that the migration of people in the course of global history affects the ideas of the migrating societies as well as those influenced by the migration.
- Change and Continuity: students will learn that while historical changes occurred over a certain period, there was still continuity to the basic structures of societies.
- Technological Innovation: students will get an understanding of the consequences of technological innovation for society, both intended and unintended (Georgia Department of Education, 2017).
Following each unit included in the curriculum is the list of key themes that will be studied in the course of lessons. The topics correspond to the topic of each unit and are all connected to the mentioned key concepts. For example, Unit 2 “Ancient Civilizations,” is focused on studying societies’ need for the development of societal structures that will enhance order and stability. Activities during this unit are focused on relating where and how global civilizations developed and changed with the help of cultural facets such as religion, economy, and politics.
It is also expected that students will learn how to compare the development of civilizations (Easter Mediterranean, China, Africa, India, Central, and South America) for studying their emerging needs and interactions between each other. At the end of the unit, students will show that they are proficient in enduring new topics and can apply them to different situations.
As mentioned previously, each unit in the curriculum corresponds with the connecting themes outlined in the Background Knowledge section. In the example with Unit 2 “Ancient Civilizations,” students are expected to connect their understanding to the themes of culture, governance, and location:
- Students will understand that the culture of Ancient Civilizations was formed with the help of the existing beliefs, religions, customs, traditions, as well as the type of government.
- Students will understand that the changing complexities within the societies of Ancient Civilizations and their interactions will lead to the increase of political complexities.
- Students will understand that the geographical locations of Ancient Civilizations influence their culture and overall development (Georgia Department of Education, 2017).
The analysis of the curriculum has shown that content and language are the two most important aspects of its development. As a whole, the World History course is based on communication, explanation, and questioning of past events, providing students with an array of opportunities throughout the course. The connection to language and literacy within the curriculum is based on the analysis of the provided information with the help of language. The aspects of such analysis include:
- Citing textual evidence from written material for supporting the exploration of primary and secondary sources while paying attention to the validity and relevancy of the cited evidence.
- Determining the principal ideas of information provided in primary and secondary sources; providing a well-designed summary on the development of key events and ideas.
- Comparing and contrasting existing views on the same topic in different secondary and primary sources.
- Writing clear arguments focused on the topic of lessons and units.
- Writing informative texts such as narrations of historical occurrences, experiments, etc.
- Producing clear writing, in which style and content organization align with the appropriate audience and task.
- Conducting a short research project for answering questions or solving a problem; expanding and narrowing the scope of the inquiry, synthesizing different sources, and showing the understanding of topics in question (Georgia Department of Education, 2017).
- Writing over shorter and extended time frames to explore a range of unit-specific themes, purposes, and tasks.
When it comes to the adaptation of the mentioned language objectives for English Language Learners, it is recommended for instructors to implement scaffolding student activities for activating ELLs’ background knowledge, engage them in pair and group activities that will enhance collaboration and improve language skills (Baecher, 2011). Moreover, it is recommended to facilitate independent work after the provision of a specific activity guide. Moreover, it is essential to develop enhanced reading and writing skills by providing students with culturally relevant materials to assist them in the completion of the assignments for the World History class.
In the World History curriculum for high school, the process of evaluation is linked to various tasks, and activities instructors use for measuring the level of students’ understanding and proficiency in a given topic. The key areas included in the assessment are associated with the level of students’ information processing skills that allow them to get a better understanding of the topics studied during class.
Tests and assignments given to students are aimed at helping locate, analyze, and synthesize information related to World History science. The information processing skills that students are expected to enhance include comparing similarities and differences, organizing items in chronological order, identifying problems and their alternative solutions, distinguishing between facts and opinions, identifying and using primary and secondary resources, interpreting historical timelines, analyzing artifacts, making conclusions and generalizations, formulating appropriate research questions, checking the validity and consistency of information, as well as many more.
As to the assessment of the information processing skills of English Language Learners, it is recommended to provide students with simplified forms of tests and assignments, as well as give more explanations on what is expected from them during the assessment. Assignments such as summaries, reflections, and research papers are especially useful for ELLs since they will be able to demonstrate their knowledge while being included in the process of learning; moreover, such assignments allow instructors to determine the progress of the ELLs with regards to written language proficiency (Alverman & Phelps, 2004).
Lessons targeted at the exploration of events about World History are predominantly based on interactions between the teacher and students, both ELLs and non-ELLs. It is widely known that language can be efficiently acquired with the help of communication and explanation, which points to the need of the teacher to offer ELLs opportunities to interact with the class and discuss topics associated with World History.
Since ELLs usually come from other cultural environments, exploring World History is a great opportunity for them to share knowledge about their unique cultural background and contribute to the discussion with their viewpoints on various topics (Perso, 2012). Cultural responsiveness during interactions with ELLs is likely to lead to the appreciation of the cultural, social, linguistic, and religious diversity of the class. In the case of interactions, the proposed scaffolding technique can also be applied due to the importance of partner collaboration, especially for those ELLs that are used to work on their own. Nevertheless, the World History curriculum designed by the Georgia Department of Education does not provide any insights about the support of ELLs, which is a significant disadvantage.
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The major strength of the World History curriculum designed by the Georgia Department of Education is the focus on providing students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the major topics with the help of analysis of the themes and their summary. Students are expected to demonstrate a profound knowledge of the key concepts and how they relate to the topic of World History. The curriculum consistently asks students to analyze historical events, justify their relevance, apply their prior knowledge and the area of expertise, as well as show involvement in the learning. As long as these concepts of instruction are appropriately structured to fit the needs of ELLs, the course will be highly beneficial for all students regardless of their language proficiency.
The major disadvantage of the World History curriculum is the lack of attention to specific instructional techniques for assisting ELLs to reach the desired level of understanding. Such a disadvantage dramatically hinders the potential of the educational facility to provide all students regardless of their cultural and language background with effective instruction. The curriculum can improve on the development of a guideline for teachers to follow in the World History curriculum when there is a need in meeting the learning needs of ELLs. It will also be helpful if the curriculum provided specific examples of how to eliminate possible barriers to learning.
For instance, if an ELL student had issues in summarizing a topic in a two-page essay, a teacher could be instructed to provide the students with specific questions, guidelines, or an outline to follow. The provision of key terms to include in the essay could also be an effective instructional strategy (Tofade, Elsner, & Haines, 2013).
With regards to the presentation of material to promote the understanding of key concepts, the World History curriculum under examination provides students with instructional activity videos and PowerPoint presentations on different topics linked to the curriculum. The visual material offers both ELLs and non-ELLs opportunities to see what is expected from them during and at the end of each unit. While the curriculum does not go into detail as to other types of material presentation, one important point to mention is the use of maps and globes. Using such materials is essential for explaining the impact of geography on both historical and cultural events, in particular with regards to the assignments of comparing and contrasting or the usage of primary and secondary resources (Cohen, 2007).
To some extent, maps and globes are universal tools that are easy to understand by ELLs and can be used for a variety of assignments, both reading, and writing. It is important to mention that the presentation of material does not differentiate between the needs of ELLs and native English speakers. Therefore, it is recommended that the curriculum improves its presentation with regards to the needs of ELLs, especially in the realm of written assignments (Alvarez, Ananda, Walqui, Sato, & Rabinowitz, 2014).
Overall, the World History curriculum developed by the Georgia Department of Education provides students with a solid basis for improving their understanding of world history, enhancing their skills associated with the analysis of major concepts, and aligning their past knowledge with new. Nevertheless, there is a gap in the curriculum regarding addressing the needs of ELLs when learning the subject. Since many aspects included in the curriculum revolve around discussions, synthesis of sources, analysis, writing, and other language-related assignments, it is imperative for the Georgia Department of Education to improve the existing strategies to address the needs of English language learners.
Alvarez, L., Ananda, S., Walqui, A., Sato, E., & Rabinowitz, S. (2014). Focusing formative assessment on the needs of English language learners. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Web.
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