Student understanding is assessed in a variety of ways (journal input, class discussion, observation of behavior at school).
Journal responses are one way of measuring student responses. Possible questions are the following:
- What are the three most important things that you have learned about the Holocaust that you did not know before? Why are these particular things important?
- What are the three most important lessons that you learned from the Holocaust and why?
- In what ways do you think your behavior will change as a result of studying the Holocaust?
I am looking to see if students are able to make a connection between the specific situations we have studied and similar events taking place today. I consider spontaneous comparisons between past and present modes of living and worldviews as strong indicators of students’ understanding. In my follow-up questions to students, I am often probing to see if they can go beyond a superficial reporting of facts to a deeper analysis of the situation. Can they look at causes and effects, for example? Can they consider alternative perspectives? Can they see differences between past and present as well as similarities? Furthermore, to what extent do I see a change in behavior—particularly in the classroom.
Students are incredibly engaged in this unit. It is important that I do a lot of listening. Students are usually very somber, and it is through their journal writings that I can see the impact this unit has on them. They want more information. I encourage them to read survivor accounts.
I have found that this lesson works extremely well. Since today’s students are visual learners, the use of videos immediately engages them. The videos are meant to be used as “triggers for discussion” rather than on their own. Because the clips are short (five minutes) students are actively engaged from the start. In the future I will probably change the piece on Bosnia and include Iraq in some way. Here are some questions I am thinking about:
- What does the Holocaust teach us about involvement in other nation's affairs when there are known human rights abuses and threats to international security?
- What is the role of the United States and the United Nations with respect to how nations treat their populations?
- What are the consequences of inaction?