Primary Source Evaluation

Process and Goals: 

Before the first primary source evaluation of the semester, I will give a lecture titled "Interpreting Primary Sources" in which I teach students how to interrogate a source's physical form, purpose, biases, intended audience, perspective, and more. This lecture will occur early in the semester and will be available on Blackboard for students to reference. I will then divide students into groups which they will maintain for the entire semester. Once the groups are formed, I let students know that if anyone feels that their colleague(s) aren't contributing to the group discussion and assignments, they should email their TA and let them know. However, I make it explicitly clear that each complaint will be taken very seriously and will involve the evaluation of group work by a TA before any changes are made or any student is reprimanded. At the end of class every Wednesday, I will hand out that week's primary source assignment (also made available on Blackboard.) The directions tell students to read a specific passage from the textbook and an excerpt from a primary document, both of which relate to that week's lectures. On Friday, each group is given the Primary Source Evaluation Worksheet which they have 40 minutes to complete. After all groups complete the worksheet, the entire class discusses the document and group responses. I will collect the worksheets at the end of class and use those sheets for their participation grade. This exercise teaches students disciplinary skills and encourages students to "Open Up" their textbooks by introducing primary sources that either directly challenge or problematize the narrative, help contextualize important events or themes, and/or introduce a new perspective that has been neglected by their textbook. This learning activity embodies my teaching philosophy in that it encourages students to develop mindful conclusions and discuss their conclusions with each other and others. It helps them synthesize and integrate new information with old ideas and encourages them to think creatively as well as holistically. 

Sample Assignment:  
Before class on Friday, please read Chapter 15 of your textbook Give me Liberty!, focusing specifically on the formation and legacy of the Freedman's Bureau. Also read the primary source found here: https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/the-freedmen-s-bureau/sources/112. I will give the class 40 minutes on Friday to complete the primary source evaluation worksheet in your groups and then each group will discuss their answers with the class. Remember, these sheets will be turned in at the end of class and will count towards your participation grade.  Please review Monday's lecture/slideshow on "Interpreting Primary Sources" in Blackboard before Friday and bring your textbook to class! 

Primary Source Evaluation Worksheet

Who created this document? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


When and where was the document created? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


Contextualize the document – what was happening in the world when this was created? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


What is the intended purpose of this document? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


What perspectives are represented in this document? Is there any bias? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


What does the textbook say about this topic? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


Compare and contrast the primary document and the textbook – how do they complement or challenge each other? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: 

 


How does this contribute to our understanding of history? 

 

 

Conclusion/Significance: