Putting events into context is something I always thought was important, but now that the College Board explicitly has established the skill, it has forced me to be more proactive in creating lessons and assignments that allow students to utilize this way of thinking.
[bctt tweet=”Contextualization is a critical historical thinking skill featured in the newly redesigned course.”] The place that contextualization is most directly relevant on the actual AP exam itself is the Document Based Question.
One of the more significant changes is to the structure of one essay on the AP exam, the Document Based question (DBQ).
The rubric for the DBQ was previously a more holistic essay that combined a strong thesis, and use of documents and outside information to support the argument.
One aspect of the DBQ rubric that can be a bit confusing initially is that students are asked to do this contextualization, but there is also another area which gives them the option to use historical context. Contextualization refers to putting the entire essay into a broader context (preferably in the introduction).
However, when writing their essays, students are also required to analyze four of the documents that they utilize by either examining the author’s point of view, describing the intended audience of the source, identifying the author’s purpose or putting the source into historical context.
It discusses attempts at compromise, but increasing sectional tensions that led to the Civil War.
The writer paints a vivid and clear picture of the situation, events, and people that set the stage for the Civil War.
The latter sounds similar to contextualization (and it is essentially the same skill), but historical context is only focused on the specific document being analyzed, not the entire essay, like the contextualization point.
For example, if a document is a map that shows slavery growing dramatically from 1820 to 1860, a student might point out that this growth can be explained in the context of the development of the cotton gin, which made the production of cotton much more profitable and let to the spread of slavery in the Deep South.