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Faculty Members Selected Winners Of 2013 Gilbert Award

Published: December 18, 2013

Faculty members Tim Keirn and Eileen Luhr have been selected as this year’s winners of the William and Edwyna Gilbert Award by the American Historical Association (AHA).

Awarded annually by the AHA, the Gilbert Prize is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the teaching of history through the publication of journal articles.

Keirn, coordinator of CSULB’s Social Science Program and a full-time lecturer in the departments of history and liberal studies, and Luhr, associate professor of history and advisor of CSULB’s social science credential program, will receive the award during a ceremony at the association’s 128th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.

The two were chosen for the honor based on their article “Subject Matter Counts: The Pre-Service Teaching and Learning of Historical Thinking,” which appeared in The History Teacher (Vol. 45, No. 4, 2012, pp 493-511), a quarterly academic journal concerned with the teaching of history in schools, colleges and universities and published by the Society for History Education.

The vibrotactile device for the prosthetic rehabilitation project.

In the article, they make the case that the “historical thinking movement” (currently popular among history educators) has been almost entirely focused on the pedagogic training of pre-service history teachers without consideration of their subject matter preparation. Through a careful analysis of cohorted data of credential students, the two provided evidence that pre-service candidates with deeper procedural and discipline-based subject matter preparation are more effective history instructors relative to their peers who have had the same pedagogic training but who tested out of discipline-based subject matter curriculum.

“Our article is provocative in that we make the claim (based on our analysis of recent California state institutional accreditation data) that college and university history departments are currently much less involved in pre-service teacher preparation than they have been in the past. This will pose a challenge for the effective teaching of history and historical thinking in secondary schools in the future,” Keirn pointed out. “We think that the American Historical Association recognized our work because the research supports the significance of the role of historians and disciplinary understanding in the effective preparation of history teachers.”

“As Tim mentioned,” said Luhr, “the recent trend in California has been toward a decline in the collaboration between history departments and pre-service teacher training programs. This disconnect is problematic because disciplinary cooperation will be vital in as school districts transition to the more skill-based Common Core standards.

The vibrotactile device for the prosthetic rehabilitation project.
Tim Keirn (l) and Eileen Luhr

“At CSULB, however, the single subject credential program works closely with academic departments such as history and English (the programs, in fact, are based in the academic departments),” she continued. “We feel that students in our program therefore get the best possible blend of pedagogy and discipline-based research. In recent years, members of the social science credential teaching staff—which includes full-time instructors like Tim and I as well as practicing secondary teachers from local districts—have collaborated to develop our students’ discipline-based thinking skills as well as their content knowledge.”

Keirn and Luhr were selected by a teaching prize review committee of AHA members, including Paul G.E. Clemens, chair (Rutgers University, New Brunswick), Maribel Dietz (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge), William R. Everdell (Saint Ann’s School), and Roland Spickermann (University of Texas, Permian Basin).

“Keirn and Luhr not only report on the diminishing role of history departments in preparing students to teach history in the secondary school system but also show that new teachers who have combined rigorous undergraduate training in history with traditional pedagogic training in history education do better in the high school classroom,”said Clemens.

Originally named the “William Gilbert Award” in memory of William Gilbert, a longtime AHA member and distinguished scholar-teacher of the Renaissance at the University of Kansas, the prize was renamed the William and Edwyna Gilbert Award in 2012 after his widow Edwyna Gilbert passed away and left a considerable contribution to the award.

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies. The AHA provides leadership for the discipline, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, and supplies various services to sustain and enhance the work of its members. As the largest organization of historians in the United States, the AHA is comprised of more than 14,000 members and serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.

–Rick Gloady