Reflection on Global History Unit 2: Belief Systems and Religious Conflict

In terms of intellectual sophistication, our second unit in Global History was the most ambitious I have tried.  I believe we had a modest success.  Most students were able to articulate how past events have led to current conflicts, and could use this information to speculate on alternative courses of action moving forward.  Throughout the unit, students were engaged, both formally in the classroom and informally outside of it, in high level conversations that were well beyond my past experiences with history students both in terms of depth of thought and engagement.  With that said, students did not reach the level of understanding I expect for them around the standard of “marshaling evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems.” This unit was the first of three that will engage directly with this understanding, and I hope that it laid the foundation for more advanced work later in the year.

Things We Got Right

  • Student were engaged in really deep and authentic inquiry-based work, requiring the use the skills of historians to solve real-world problems.
  • The individual lesson on the Crusades, where students unknowingly got different documents from multiple points of view led to fantastic conversations about bias and how perspective matters in history.  This format should applied to other content in the future.
  • The structure of the project was excellent, and the final products were largely well done.
  • Students had deep conversations about what makes up personal identity and how this can lead to group conflicts.

Things We Got Wrong That Are Easy to Fix

  • Remove the Nigeria and West vs. Religious Fundamentalism groups from the project; the former is too obscure; the latter is too abstract.
  • Add a Tibet group.
  • Model the process of the project for students, not just the product.
  • While a gallery walk was effective for students to learn about other groups’ work, this needed to be followed by a more teacher-centered review of the different conflicts to ensure all students understood all topics.
  • Add an additional layer of checking for understanding in the group project to ensure individuals understand the events they looked at and are ready to draw connections between their individual event and the group’s conflict.

Things We Got Wrong That Need to Be Redone

  • There is one major change that needs to be made to the unit for next year: rather than using the Facing History approach of starting with individual identity, then moving to group identity, then interactions between groups, we should have organized this unit as an inquiry-based one where students started with the current conflicts, then wrote questions to lead them on an investigation of the root causes of the conflict, which of course would have naturally then led to individual and group religious identities.

Unit Materials

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2 thoughts on “Reflection on Global History Unit 2: Belief Systems and Religious Conflict

  1. Hi Stephen –
    I think your public posting of both the unit and your thoughts on it is exactly the kind of practice that fosters professional learning.
    The only thing I would have loved to have seen that you didn’t post is some examples of student work – whether that be images, selections from writing, or captured quotes.
    Thanks! Keep it up!

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