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Teaching History Blog

History Research Paper Series--Presenting and Defending

It is time to celebrate your students’ hard work and successes! At the end of the semester or school year, this assignment will help recap their writing experiences, highlight all of the content they learned, and encourage self reflection in a positive way.

Title: History Research Paper Series--Presenting and Defending
Objective: Learner will reflect on their content learning and development of writing skills over the course of the term or year. This reflection will encourage their strengths to be continued in upcoming terms, provide a sense of accomplishment, and also review the content topics discussed during your time together. Additionally, the student will learn to evaluate the work of others as well as begin to learn to “defend” their own work.
Assignment type: Summative
Assignment Details:
-Student will select their best historical research assignment of the term or school year. The instructor should emphasize that it might not be the one they got the best grade on as the evaluation of those writing experiences may have changed or had different goals during the year.
-How do they pick? Ask students to reflect on which assignment they are most proud of or that taught them something they didn’t expect or even challenged them the most. Which paper is the most readable for the audience, the class, or would be most relevant to the audience? Which paper is the most interesting to the student?
-After selecting their favorite research and writing assignment of the year, the student is to edit and improve the paper based on comments from the instructor when it was graded and make changes they wish they had done the first time. Does it need more sources, more supporting details, more explanation, a better conclusion? Does it have a catchy title and a first paragraph that intrigues the reader?
-Students will share copies of their perfected paper with their classmates (each student should get a copy of each paper). Students will read papers before “defense day” and make edits, provide a statement of one item that is really great about the paper, and list at least one question to ask during the defense of the paper.
-Student will present the paper to their classmates.
-Class will ask questions regarding the topic and thesis, and the presenter will answer questions and defend their paper. (Instructor is to act as a moderator not as a participant of the audience)
-Student will collect all the copies of his or her paper with comments from their class and have the opportunity to make final improvements before submitting the paper again to the instructor.

Rubric (Based on 100 points but considering the summative aspect could be worth more toward the final grade in the course)
Student selected paper from the term and made edits to that paper for classmates to review.-10 points
Student presented and defended paper and thesis statement to classmates.-20 points
Student responded thoughtfully in a supportive and constructive manner to all the papers of his or her classmates including providing edit marks as well as one item the student did well and one question for the defense. -20 points
Student submitted an improved version of the paper to the instructor.-50 points

This may be a tough assignment for some students because it will certainly push them out of their comfort zone, and in some cases may be done more effectively in a small group. However, as I recall my graduate college years, I remember feeling unprepared for “paper readings” and especially defending my master’s thesis. In “real” life we often get the chance to improve our work and then “defend” or persuade others that it is good and well researched. Students don’t often get the opportunity to show they can apply what they’ve learned to improve their work because they are starting from scratch with each assignment. This assignment focuses on the next step which is taking ideas and building them into something better. With this assignment the entire class is getting a review of historical content by reading the papers and listening to the presentations, and everyone is also working on editing and evaluation skills that they can apply to their own work.

Links
How to Make a Playlist on HippoCampus:
A four-minute tutorial video
HippoCampus U.S. History & Government Study Group on OpenStudy.com:
Library of Congress:
United States House of Representatives:
United States Senate:
U.S. Federal Court:
U.S. Supreme Court Media:
Interactive Constitution:
National Constitution Center:
Virginia Historical Society's Virginia History Explorer:

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