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An analysis of predictors of history content knowledge: Implications for policy and practice

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Published: 2017-06-26

Authors

Paul G. Fitchett

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Tina L. Heafner

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Richard G. Lambert

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Keywords: history education; social studies education; content knowledge; National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Abstract

How and to what extent students learn history content is a complicated process, drawing from the instructional opportunities they experience; the policy prioritization of history/social studies instruction in schools; and their own cultural perspectives toward the past. In an attempt to better understand the complex inter-play among these dimensions, we examined relationships among student sociocultural characteristics, instructional exposure, and school-level variables and US History content knowledge. Using data from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress Test on US History (NAEP-USH), multilevel analyses indicated that while sociocultural indicators (such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status) correlate with achievement, students’ instructional exposure variables remain significant predictors of history content knowledge. Moreover, school context such as building-level demographics and state testing-policy predict between school variance in content knowledge and moderate the achievement gap. Results also suggest that, while a substantial achievement gap remains, exposure to text-based instructional practices is associated with increased knowledge. Findings from this study have policy implications for the development of a more inclusive social studies curriculum, the advocating of text-dependent instruction as a high-leverage practice among history teachers, and cautious consideration of tests as proxies for accountability in history education. 

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Author Biographies

Paul G. Fitchett

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Paul Fitchett is Associate Professor of Teacher Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Cato College of Education. In addition, he serves as the graduate director for the PhD in Curriculum and Instruction program. His research focuses on the intersections of teacher working conditions, education policy, and student learning outcomes with a particular focus on the social studies. His scholarship has been published in Theory and Research in Social Education, Teachers College Record, and Education Policy. He has also co-edited two books including the forthcoming title, Social Studies in the New Educational Policy Era: Conversations on Purposes, Perspectives, and Practices.

Tina L. Heafner

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Tina Heafner is Professor of Teacher Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Cato College of Education. Her administrative responsibilities include directing the College of Education Prospect for Success, M.Ed. in Secondary Education and the Minor in Secondary Education.  Tina is the Vice-President-elect of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and serves as Past-Chair of the Executive Board of the NCSS College and University Faculty Council. Her research focuses on technology-mediated and online learning, content literacy and disciplinary inquiry, education policy and student learning outcomes with a particular focus on the social studies. Her scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Technology and Teacher EducationHigh School JournalTheory and Research in Social Education, Teachers College Record, and Education Policy.  She has also co-edited four books and co-authored eight books with her most recent title Beginning Inquiry in US History: Short Texts for Inexperienced Readers. 

Richard G. Lambert

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Richard Lambert is a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in the Cato College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Director of the Center for Educational Measurement and Evaluation, and Editor of NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field.  His research interests include formative assessment for young children, applied statistics, and teacher stress and coping. His research has appeared in Educational Policy Analysis Archives, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and the Journal of Applied Measurement, among other outlets.

PDF

Published: 2017-06-26

How to Cite

Fitchett, P. G., Heafner, T. L., & Lambert, R. G. (2017). An analysis of predictors of history content knowledge: Implications for policy and practice. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 65. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.25.2761