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World studies teachers use varied methods of instruction

The world holds seven continents, divided into 196 countries with seven billion people spread out across the globe. All of these countries all have their own, unique history, and teaching a class combining it all can be a difficult task for educators. The broad topic of the world allows RBHS teachers to choose and have some freedom with what they teach. Students have the ability to choose which World Studies class to be in. Teens can either be in an Advanced Placement (AP) world class, a regular class or regular class with honors.

Two letters distinguish the difference between the two classes, but the content and teaching styles have many differences. Columbia Public School (CPS) Coordinator of Language Arts and Social Studies, Nick Kremer, states that AP World Studies meets Missouri Learning Standards just like its regular counterpart, but goes beyond the objectives.

“The AP World Studies standards are more numerous, more rigorous [and is] written at the college level,” Kremer said. “[It also focuses] on the entirety of world history, whereas the learning objectives for regular World [Studies] only cover modern world history.”

For students who choose to take the more rigorous AP course, the workload can be challenging because of the college level content. Sophomore Caroline Curtright briefly experienced AP World Studies before switching to regular, in order to lighten her school workload.  

“AP is very busy and stressful. It gives a lot of homework like reading and notes almost every night,” Curtright said. “It teaches a quicker style of writing. Regular is a lot less stressful regarding homework and course load. It gives homework only once in awhile and the writing is more specific and takes more time.”

Gregory Irwin, who teaches both regular and AP World Studies, has experienced both classes and says the teaching styles are different because regular World Studies’ teachers have more freedom in their classes.

“The College Board requires [AP teachers] to submit a very specific curriculum proposal that requires an equal amount of time be spent on each of the five AP World History Time Periods,” Irwin said. “Students have to learn five specific essay styles that are unique to the AP World History Exam; whereas, students learn two essay styles —argumentative and research— in regular World Studies.”

While teachers have certain power on what to teach in World Studies, Kremer said the curriculum was decided by committees at the state or national level that are made of up educators, parents and experts such as historians, lawyers, economists and geographers.

“In areas where the standards allow for more customized decisions to be made at the local level, our teachers work in teams to determine what specific cases to study, attempting to maximize student exposure to a diverse range of relevant topics over the course of the class,”  Kremer said. “Our Social Studies department engages in a program evaluation every five years to examine our current practices and recommend any revisions that might need to be made based on feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including students.”

Program evaluations help with curriculum but it doesn’t help with controversy. Topics in World Studies such as politics can be a challenge for teachers because of potential worried parents who don’t want their kids to be exposed to certain opinions, and staying unbiased.

“History and literature are, often, inherently political,” Irwin said. “The AP World History Exam expects student to make thematic connections to any era and any time period. So we, as teachers, model appropriate connections to modern day, so connections to our current political climate. We try to be fair and even-handed.”

Kremer is aware that social studies teachers cannot be completely apolitical, but says it is inappropriate for public schools to actively or inadvertently promote any particular political ideologies.

“Social Studies is itself inherently political, as almost all aspects of history, governance, and culture are open to different interpretations,” Kremer said. “Ultimately, the job of the Social Studies teacher is not to teach students the ‘right’ way to think about history or government, but to help them attain the foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills they will need to be able to answer important social questions for themselves in their own future lives.”

Which World Studies class did you take, or currently in? Tell us in the comments below. 

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