Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of History (1991)

Approved by the AHA Council, May 1991

Introductory Statement

The American Historical Association believes that the study of history is at the heart of liberal learning. Thus the preparation of history and social studies teachers is of critical interest to the Association and the historical profession which it represents.

The following guidelines are designed to be used by the faculty and administrators of colleges and universities engaged in the education and certification of teachers for grades six through twelve. However, the education of potential teachers requires the active participation of those currently teaching at the precollegiate level. Therefore, it is highly desirable that institutions of higher education work with their counterparts in the community to refine and implement what follows.

The guidelines are based on a fundamental principle: that the systematic study of history at the college level is a necessary prerequisite to teaching history and social studies at any level.

I. Preparation in History

The prospective teacher, whether in history or in social studies, should have a major in history whose content is substantially the same as that recommended by the American Historical Association in Liberal Learning and the History Major (1990). Such a program will require about one-fourth of the total semester or quarter hours needed to complete a four-year degree.

A strong advising program which acknowledges the vocational goal of the prospective teacher should accompany the major. Such advising can ensure that students take courses appropriate to the breadth requirements of precollegiate teaching and necessary to communicate with a diverse student body. These courses should enhance the prospective teacher's understanding of cultural, economic, environmental, ethnic, geographic, political, racial, and gender differences, commonalties, and influences.

II. Preparation in Subjects Related to History

In addition to courses designed to satisfy the General Education requirements of the undergraduate degree, prospective teachers should take at least three courses in the social and behavioral sciences and three courses in the humanities. Courses which employ a multidisciplinary approach are particularly desirable here. The purpose of this requirement is to provide students with an opportunity to employ the methodologies of other disciplines in examining the human condition.

III. Graduate Study

Historical study beyond the baccalaureate degree is certainly desirable, but it is most useful to think of such study in terms of lifelong learning rather than merely the acquisition of another degree which terminates further study. Precollegiate teachers, like their postsecondary counterparts, must continually renew and revitalize their historical knowledge.