Grant Wood History Institute

Events | Principles & Practice | About GWHI


The Grant Wood History Institute (GWHI) is a federally funded professional development initiative serving more than 60 history teachers from various public school districts in the Grant Wood Area Education Association of east central Iowa. Institute programming began in 2007 and will conclude in summer 2009. Funded by a U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant, the program expands the Bringing History Home K-5 project into middle and high school classrooms. The five processes that are the cornerstone for Bringing History Home are emphasized in all GWHI events; they provide an organizing model and common vernacular to help participants share and enhance their command of historical narratives and inquiry teaching strategies.

To support teachers’ growth, GWHI provides research-based activities designed by a team of History and Social Studies Education faculty from the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Each member of the faculty team brings to GWHI history expertise and a strong commitment to effective teaching. Several faculty have provided leadership for Bringing History Home programs since 2001; their experiences in that program resulted in their development of a comprehensive model for history education that informs all faculty contributions to GWHI.

Over its three-year course, GWHI serves three cohorts. A two-year multi-district cohort began programming in 2007 with a spring two-day workshop. This workshop introduces an inquiry paradigm for studying and teaching history prior to the GWHI centerpiece experience: a four-day summer institute on the University of Iowa campus. Conducted in the summers of 2007 & 2008, the institutes immerse teachers in explorations of significant issues, episodes and turning points in the periods of U.S. History which they teach. Explorations include historiography lectures, discussions, and primary source investigations. In pedagogy sessions, teachers incorporate elements of the in-depth explorations into lesson and unit designs for their own classrooms.

A one-year multi-district cohort begins programming in Spring 2008. After a spring two-day paradigm workshop, this group will join the original cohort in the 2009 summer institute. The cohorts’ fall activities include a one-day biography workshop and an optional graduate-level course that meets on several evenings during the fall months. In winter and spring, GWHI teachers are supported on-site by classroom visits from the Institute director and faculty. The third cohort, consisting exclusively of middle school history teachers from Cedar Rapids CSD, meets with GWHI director Elise Fillpot for inservice activities at regular intervals during the 2007-2009 school years.

In all its activities, the Institute centers on providing opportunities for participating teachers to learn from one another and college faculty (and for participating college faculty to learn from grade 7-12 teachers!) Through collaboration, reflection and exploration, teachers may improve their command of historical narratives, their knowledge and use of historical inquiry teaching strategies, and their students’ understanding of U.S. History. As the program progresses, the University of Iowa Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) is gathering information from teachers about their experiences in the program, and sharing that information with the project director. By incorporating these teacher suggestions and information from CEA assessments of teacher and student learning, Institute professional development activities can be designed to meet teacher needs and preferences.

Looking ahead, beyond 2009, we hope the Institute will continue to impact Iowa teachers and students after the conclusion of federal funding. To that end and to help teachers share their learning with other teachers, an optional Spring 2009 workshop will prepare GWHI participants to offer and conduct paradigm workshops in teams throughout the state. With teachers teaching other teachers, the collaborative spirit of this program is sustainable. For further information about how you can be part of the Grant Wood History Institute, please contact Elise Fillpot and/or any other Institute personnel.

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Grant Wood History Institute