From the Noteworthy column in the April 1990 Perspectives

How ERIC Serves Teachers of History

John J. Patrick, April 1990

Editor's Note: The AHA is an ERIC Partner and as such assists in identifying materials for inclusion in the ERIC database and in increasing awareness of and interest in its services. The following explains the purposes and programs of ERIC/ChESS.

[Text added June 11, 2009: ERIC has been restructured since this article was published in April 1990, and readers who arrive on this page and need current information about ERIC are requested to visit www.eric.ed.gov/. They can also find useful, up-to-date, and subject-specific information at http://teachinghistory.org, the web site of the National History Education Clearinghouse.]

What are the major trends and issues on teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools? Do assessments of student's knowledge of history point to serious deficiencies in teaching and learning of this subject? What strengths and weaknesses in the pre-college history curriculum are revealed by reviews of textbooks? Who is recommending reforms in the teaching and learning of history and schools? What are these recommendations? Why are they being made? What debates have they started? If you want information on these kinds of questions, then turn to ERIC.

What Is ERIC?

The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is a federally-funded nationwide system of sixteen clearinghouses, managed by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education. Each ERIC clearinghouse is responsible for acquiring, processing, and reporting the significant educational literature in its subject field. The ERIC Clearinghouse at Indiana University's Social Studies Development Center, for example, is responsible for monitoring and disseminating information about education in the social studies. This component of the ERIC system—the Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education—is widely know by its acronym, ERIC/ChESS.

A rich flow of information regularly moves through ERIC/ChESS in various formats: research reports and monographs, curriculum guides, conference papers, curriculum reform reports, model classroom lessons, assessments of student learning, policy papers, journal articles, and so forth. Many of these documents pertain to education in American history and world history. ERIC/ChESS prepares these items for entry into the ERIC database, where they are stored and made available to researchers, teachers, curriculum specialists, educational policymakers, and other interested parties. Data are reported monthly in Resources in Education (RIE) and Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE).

What the ERIC Clearinghouse Contains

ERIC clearinghouses solicit documents on educational research and practice, which they index, abstract, and send to the ERIC Processing and Reference Facility. The abstracts of processed ERIC documents are announced in a monthly publication, Resources in Education. ERIC/ChESS provides all of the input to RIE in its subject field, which includes many documents on the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools. Here are ten examples of documents (among hundreds) included in the ERIC database and announced in RIE, which pertain to education in history:

  • ED 298 016. Our Community Development Challenge: Documents for American History Courses Featuring Public Works and the Rise of the City, 1871–1941 by Gerald A. Danzer and Maryhelen A. Matijevic. Paper presented at the City in History Conference. Chicago, IL, September 22, 1987.
  • ED 293 779. History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, by the History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and Criteria Committee. Sacramento: California State Department of Education, 1988.
  • ED 289 808. Teaching and Learning about the Constitution in Secondary School Courses in American History: Persistent Problems and Promising Practices by John J. Patrick. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, Washington, DC, December 28, 1987.
  • ED 357 591. Democracy's Untold Story: What World History Textbooks Neglect by Paul Gagnon. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers, 1987.
  • ED 303 417. The Columbian Voyages, The Columbian, Exchange, and Their Historians by Alfred W. Crosby. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1987.
  • ED 289 807. American History Textbooks: An Assessment of Quality by Gilbert T. Sewall. Washington, DC: Educational Excellence Network, 1987.
  • ED 261 960. Reflections of Yesterday: Processes for Investigating Local History, Intermediate and Middle School Level by Richard Gage. Des Moines: Iowa Department of Public Instruction, 1985.
  • ED 254 477. History in the Schools, edited by Matthew T. Downey. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies, 1985.
  • ED 214 813. The Critical Analysis of Documentary Evidence: Basic Skills in the History Classroom by James J. Lorence. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Los Angeles, CA, December 29, 1981.
  • ED 206 526. Justifying Social History in the Schools by Peter N. Stearns. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. Washington, DC, December 28, 1980.

Each document in the RIE database has an ED number, which can be used to identify and gain access to the document. Documents may be purchased in microfiche or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), 3900 Wheeler Ave., Alexandria, VA 22304-5110; telephone numbers of EDRS are (703) 823-0500 and (800) 227-3742. ERIC documents are also available for viewing in microfiche at libraries that subscribe to the ERIC database.

The ERIC clearinghouses monitor education journals in their respective subject fields, and each clearinghouse indexes and annotates articles in the journals assigned to it. The ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education (ERIC/ChESS) indexes and annotates articles from more than eighty-five journals that publish articles on the social studies/social sciences. Some of these publications specialize in the teaching and learning of history, such as the following examples: The History Teacher, The OAH Magazine of History, Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, and the History and Social Science Teacher. Other journals covered by ERIC/ChESS occasionally include important articles on education in history, such as these periodicals: Social Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, Theory and Research in Social Education, and Heritage Education Quarterly.

All annotations of journal articles covered by the ERIC clearinghouses appear in the Current Index to Journals in Education, which is published monthly and is available at libraries throughout the country. Articles listed in CIJE are not available through the EDRS. They are likely to be found in most libraries and can be located easily by using information in CIJE. Copies of most articles listed in CIJE are also available from University Microfilms International (Article Clearinghouse), 300 North Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48106; 1-800-732-0616.

Submitting Documents to ERIC

ERIC/ChESS wants to receive documents from history educators for inclusion in the database. Examples of kinds of materials collected by ERIC are research reports, position papers, monographs, evaluation studies, teaching guides, bibliographies, curriculum guides, units of instructional materials, syllabi, papers presented at conferences and conventions, and project reports. ERIC seeks both published and unpublished documents for the database. However, products of commercial publishers are not included in the database. The unpublished "fugitive" materials, not usually available through conventional channels, are especially desired by ERIC.

Documents submitted to ERIC may be typeset, typewritten, xeroxed, or otherwise duplicated. They must be legible and easily readable. Letters should be clearly formed and with sufficient contrast to the paper background to permit them to be recorded on microfiche.

If you want to contribute a document to the ERIC database, send it to: John J. Patrick, Director, ERIC/ChESS, Indiana University, 2805 East Tenth St., Bloomington, IN 47405.

Documents accepted by ERIC are reproduced on microfiche and distributed to more than 850 current subscribers to the ERIC microfiche collection. ERIC documents are constantly available because a master microfiche, from which copies can be made, is kept at the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). Thus, materials in ERIC are always "in print."

Documents in the ERIC database can be identified through online database retrieval services, such as BRS, DIALOG, and ORBIT. In addition, there are hundreds of locations, including university libraries, offering computer searches of ERIC based on compact disk (CD-ROM) systems.

As the world's largest database on education, ERIC includes significant information on the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools. Educators in history are invited to make regular use of this database through computer searches of it and through purchases of ERIC documents from EDRS. Teachers, researchers, and curriculum specialists in history are also urged to contribute to the ERIC database. Please send materials to the ERIC/ChESS headquarters for evaluation. It they are judged favorably in terms of criteria on quality of content and utility to educators in history, the documents will be included in the ERIC database.

Thousands of educators annually use ERIC. Thus, submission of high-quality documents to the ERIC database is certain to increase the circulation of good ideas in the teaching and learning of history.

—John J. Patrick is professor and director of both Indiana University's Social Studies Development Center and the ERIC Clearing-house for Social Studies/Social Science Education.