Based on the title, you may be asking yourself, “What is document based questioning (DBQ) and why are they doing this at OMS?” This summer at our early August inservice for teachers, the district brought in Phil Roden, one of the founders of the DBQ Project, to do a full-day introductory workshop for all staff. The DBQ project and method has students actively engaged in closely reading, analyzing and interrogating documents around a particular question in history or literature. Students have to deep read these documents for understanding and use evidence collected within the documents to formulate an argumentative essay as a final product. In other words, students have to take a position around the question and defend that stance with evidence.
As a result of this training, social studies teachers throughout the district, including at OMS, have started introducing students to this method of learning about history through the critical vehicles of reading, writing and thinking. Not only is this an engaging and powerful way to create lasting learning around the topics of focus, but it supports the Oostburg School District’s beliefs that all teachers are crucial in helping students learn to read, write, and think and meet our goal of making sure all students graduate college and career ready.
As a principal, the real joy in the initial phases of the implementation of this method has been the excitement exuded by both teachers and students. The collaboration among the social studies department K-12 and the opportunity for us to learn across levels and disciplines from their work in this area has been powerful. With practice, students are learning how to think. That thinking is clarified through their writing. The goal for OMS social studies teachers is to do about 3-4 DBQ’s this school year. Here’s what some 8th grade students had to say about their first try at the DBQ method:
“I thought that the DBQ was a more interesting way to show what we learned than taking a test, because we showed what we learned in a variety of ways.”
“The DBQ was really good to learn extra facts about we were learning at that time about Jamestown. Also the DBQ was good to learn about Primary and Secondary sources and how to use them and how to site them in your essay the correct way. The essay wasn’t that hard to do as long as you took notes by using the chicken foot or a Ven-Diagram to sort through the good facts that were actually important to the articles and that would be important to the essay itself.”
We are excited to see how the DBQ process can help create a clear, spiraling set of expectations around thinking and writing skills for students, all while supporting the critical work of our English Language Arts department and district goals related to college and career readiness.