Bottleneck: Students Have Difficulty Generating Interpretations

Students have difficulty moving beyond a recitation of course material to create their own interpretations of historical phenomena.

David Pace, Professor Emeritus, History Department, Indiana University


Step 1 — Describe the Bottleneck

It is very common for students in history courses to have great difficulty in moving beyond a simple recitation of the facts and dates of the course.  When asked to write a paper or an essay exam many of them are unable to develop an interpretation that describes general patterns and explains their existence.  There is often a bottleneck for instructors as well, because the steps that professional historians take in generating a thesis are often so automatic that they are invisible to teachers themselves.

Step 2 — Define the Mental Operations Required to Get Past the Bottleneck

Steps 3 and 4 — Model the Steps Needed to Get Past the Bottleneck and Give Students an Opportunity to Practice These Operations

Step 5 — Assess the Extent to Which Students Have Mastered These Operations