Teaching Global History: A Social Studies Approach
reviewed by Amy J. Good - June 14, 2013
Teaching Global History: A Social Studies Approach
Alan J. Singer
Routledge, New York
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Teaching Global History is a methods text by Alan Singer. The author would like to help teacher candidates to become questioners, and he would like for teacher candidates to make connections with people, places, and events. He also wants future teachers to know the world is a complicated place with a complicated history. It would be helpful to have sections within each chapter with these three goals explicitly embedded. Another suggestion would be for the text to be written as a workbook of sorts, where the teachers or teacher candidates could reflect on their questioning and practice responses to the learning experiences. This is a well-written text, organized in a thoughtful manner, with a powerful message. The authors three goals are significant and any social studies educator would want the same goals met in a methods course.
The author of this book has a reflective, conversational style. The book includes his own reflections on becoming a better thinker and questioner, and where he is on his own path for developing a global narrative. His work is easy to read; even if you are not a social studies scholar, the presentation of the content is clear and manageable. He is the author of Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach: A Handbook for Secondary School Teachers and editor of the Social Science Docket. In the preface he shares his own thoughts on teaching global history and his own struggles and arguments regarding learning about a complicated world. He encourages the reader to contact him with arguments and questions about the work.
This book was originally written as a companion text for the authors other book, Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach: A Handbook for Secondary School Teachers. The author and his colleagues at Hofstra University determined that teacher candidates consistently struggle to integrate their own knowledge of world history into a coherent narrative. The author admits, in his reflective style, that he too struggles with this. He wants the readers to learn the world is a complicated place and difficult to understand. Providing a place for the students to reflect and consider this complicated, global society would enhance the already powerful, thought-provoking textbook.
This nonfiction work could be used in a course for training educators, professional development, or personal growth. This book suggests there is an alternative to the traditional curriculum, where coverage of material leaves little time for thinking like historians, studying primary sources, or connecting to other disciplines. This alternative resource shares how a global history curriculum should be organized and taught. Singer offers a resource for fostering global thinking for future and current teachers through practical examples, broad social studies themes, lesson ideas, and other resources. As the title suggests, the purpose is to help teachers decide how to teach global history through a broad themed social studies approach. The author refers to the social studies approach as the ability for the reader to view history as they consider the present and future, with a global lens. He discourages learning about global history as a disconnected subject or add-on curriculum. This is a clear, refreshing message.
The book is arranged in four parts (I. Designing Global History Curriculum, II. Debating Global History, III. Waves of Global Integration, and IV. Resources) with three to six chapters in each part. The resource section includes online resources for teachers and students, autobiographies, and lesson plan samples. This arrangement would make it convenient for a course instructor to arrange readings at different segments of a semester. Additional material is available at http://people.hofstrsa.edu/Alan_J_Singer. The author encourages readers to download the material provided on the site, such as course packs and lesson plans. The lesson ideas on this website encourage thinking, questioning, and developing a global perspective. Each chapter includes 7-12 relevant activities or lesson ideas. For example, the activity, Where are your sneakers from? is a learning experience requiring students to go through their closets and read the tags of their clothing and other material items, to analyze where products are manufactured in the world. This companion website could be a strong addition to any face to face or online course. Another way to enhance this textbook would be to include the full assignments in the text, in a workbook or consumable format.
Each chapter has an outlined box, titled, Teaching Ideas. The teaching ideas sections include methods for introducing the chapter content and the relevant learning activities. As an introduction to the practical activities, the author provides a summary of each learning experience within each chapter, so the reader can see the relevance of the experience with the chapter content. Each chapter also has introduction boxes, which are helpful, suggesting relevant websites for supplemental resources. As a methods text, it would enhance the text to have reflective questions for each chapter.
The attractive cover sparks interest in the topic. The author has adequately reached the audience of secondary teachers, secondary methods instructors, and teacher candidates. It would be helpful to have mentioned this audience in the title. Perhaps the title could be, Teaching Global History: A Social Studies Approach for Secondary Educators. However, by not specifying the secondary focus, the book becomes attractive to all social studies professional educators in the K-12 level. Every teacher could benefit from reading this text, they would especially benefit from reading the learning experiences. Teaching Global History should be required reading for all social studies professionals.