The Social Studies department decided this year to remove the Historical Investigation, or HI, from the Government curriculum, tampering with hundreds of sophomores’ chances to practice writing a major essay in a more supervised setting.
The HI aims to examine and compare varied perspectives on a historical topic the writer chooses.
Although typically an essay for juniors and seniors, Government teachers adjusted the scoring and requirements to give sophomores an easier version before advancing to a higher history course. Teachers counted the HI as one grade descriptor, a fifth of each student’s final grade.
Each writer went through three rounds of edits and individual feedback with their teacher over the course of five months before submitting the final draft. This process ensured that the HI was not too large of a jump from the rigor of a freshman year social studies class.
While concerns that the HI produces lower end of the year grades are understandable, the reality is that Government is one of the easier social studies courses in comparison to other years because students receive the Essential Knowledge exam questions in advance and the material is familiar. By offering the HI, a fairly challenging research essay compared to essays sophomores have previously encountered, teachers raise the difficulty level of the course to better match the capabilities of sophomores.
In addition to preparing students for the rigor of upcoming social studies courses, writing an easier version of the HI specifically prepares them for the real one. Exams and essays in an IB curriculum have very individualized requirements unique to each major assignment. In the case of many IB-related tasks, half of the battle is understanding the format of the assignment. Even if a student is not on the IB track, the preparation for higher courses and eventually college is just as valuable. For this reason, learning the qualities that are exclusive to the HI is key to performing well on it, and providing the essay in sophomore year is the perfect opportunity for that practice.
However, the HI develops skillsets that are applicable to education beyond just IB. This includes abilities such as finding scholarly sources, researching controversial topics, comparing perspectives, identifying bias and forming research questions.
All of these skills are transferrable to future courses and careers. The more teachers expose their students to work that incorporates these techniques, the stronger their skills are likely to become. The HI accomplishes all of this, while also helping writers become informed on a specific topic and gain an in-depth understanding of a controversial subject.
Completing the HI is a necessary precursor to junior and senior year social studies classes as well as many other subjects with similarly formatted essays in their curriculum. Writing an HI in Government is imperative not only for developing the class’ writing and researching abilities, but for introducing students to the challenges they will face in the next two years.
Not offering the HI will produce learners who are ill-equipped for junior and senior year and ignorant in their knowledge and expectations. If the social studies department is looking to spring rigorous course requirements on inexperienced rising juniors then I suggest they applaud their decision and continue to not offer the HI as a component of the Government curriculum.