A national conference at the University of Virginia and Monticello in the summer of 2006, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, considered the issues involved in the task of preparing students who hope to become history teachers. The alliance formed at that conference—historians from a broad range of higher education institutions, master teachers from high schools, representatives from leading professional organizations, and specialists in the teaching and learning of history—prepared this document to suggest strategies to make history departments more effective in the important work of teacher training. Roundtables at the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the National Council on History Education annual meetings in 2007 carry the conversation forward.
Recognizing that departments of history vary widely in size, context, mission, and capacity, we present a range of strategies that have worked in different kinds of departments. We hope this document will provide a starting point for historians to decide how they might best serve the future teachers who look to them for knowledge, example, and inspiration.
Several assumptions underlie this message. We believe that the changes historians undertake should be departmentally focused, institutionally tailored, and community minded. We do not believe that historians need to revolutionize their teaching, their departments, or their institutions to accomplish these things, but that they do need to approach this part of their work in a more self-aware and coordinated way.
One assumption underlies all the others: historians are uniquely qualified to assist prospective teachers in developing the habits of mind and instructional strategies necessary to teach effectively about the past. Long experience suggests that if historians do not assert responsibility for preparing future history teachers, others will.