September 3, 2022

Faculty-Student Research Looks at Improving Concurrent Enrollment

Sample colonial runaway slave advertisement featured in CE HIST 1700 lesson plan.Sample colonial runaway slave advertisement featured in CE HIST 1700 lesson plan.

Chris Babits and graduate student Jace Jones create a master course for HIST 1700 concurrent enrollment

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor


When History graduate student, Jace Jones, wanted to gain teaching experience, he turned to one of his faculty mentors, Chris Babits, temporary assistant professor of U.S. history in the USU College of Humanities and Social Sciences and coordinator of concurrent enrollment for the Department of History.

“There was an opportunity to get on the ground floor for concurrent enrollment in history, and Chris approached me, and I was on board right away,” says Jones, who is working with Babits to design lessons intended to both standardize the U.S. history curriculum and to make it more accessible for students experiencing the rigors of higher education for the first time.

Jones received a CHaSS Graduate Student Summer Stipend to develop a series of lesson plans for USU’s concurrent enrollment courses in U.S. history. This funding allowed Jones to help build a Canvas shell for HIST 1700 to include lessons that have been adapted to not only meet the required standards but also to promote inquiry-based learning, or what Babits calls the chance to “do history” versus a model where “the professor stands up in front of students for a full lecture.”

A former History Student of the Year, Jones researched curriculum design, civics education and history pedagogy to create around 40 lesson plans, using primary sources as readings that could be paired with mini-lectures. He and Babits met weekly this summer to discuss their project entitled, “Rigorous History Courses in Secondary Schools: Researching and Creating a ‘Master Course’ for HIST 1700 Concurrent Enrollment.”

Calling this the “task of more than one person,” Babits, who studied social studies education at Columbia University, said it has been great to have the help of someone closer in age to high school students who can consider the appeal of various classroom activities. “Having the perspective of somebody who’s younger, who understands youth culture,” Babits noted, “is a huge asset.”

For his part, Jones has had the chance to explore a variety of teaching approaches and gain hands-on experience with lesson and curriculum planning as well as designing lessons around his interests in social justice and the history of African American civil rights.

Jones is grateful for the skills he has gained through this project, particularly as he has thought about how to increase the rigor of concurrent enrollment history courses for high school students. These courses help bridge the gap between high school and college, and Jones recognizes that concurrent enrollment can help all students, including those who go on to be first-generation college students, begin to comprehend the demands of a university course.

“One of the things I hear from students…is that they don’t expect a college class to take as much time as it does,” Babits added. He and Jones hope this project will help demystify college for those who think the work only takes place inside the classroom.

Using Babits’ HIST 1700 course as a model and applying the curricular theories of Stanford University's “Reading Like a Historian” program, this project set out to create scalable materials that “understand the day-to-day teaching realities of high school instruction.” They also invited the current pool of U.S. history concurrent enrollment instructors to submit lessons so that they too have a role in shaping the new inquiry-based curriculum.

Through his thesis on Utah's civil rights movement and his summer collaboration with Babits, Jones has gained direct expertise that will prepare him to tackle the complexities of teaching American history after he completes his master’s degree this spring.

Without support from the CHaSS Summer Stipend program, “this would have been a solo project,” Babits explained, “and I wouldn’t have had a person to bounce ideas off of, and I wouldn’t have gotten to see what a graduate student can develop for a project like this.” He considers research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students “vital” and looks forward to the chance to mentor additional students.


View a sample  lesson plan  from this summer’s project.


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