To begin an assessment, we must first decide what we are assessing.
This was actually tricker to determine than I anticipated. I know what my goal is- to put it into a SWBAT, it could be:
Students will be able to engage in nuanced historical thinking surrounding American involvement in WWII.
Some ways that students could show mastery of this goal would be:
- explaining the myth of American exceptionalism and identify it in narratives about the Holocaust
- examine how bigotry (antisemitism being the most obvious, but also other forms of racism, as well as misogyny) is not a thing that happened and is over, but rather a social construction that was alive in the United States in the mid 20th century as well as today.
My mind goes to debate/discussions and writing to show mastery of these subjects. Open answered questions are definitely key in the ability to examine these complicated conversations.
A very traditional assessment would be one or more short-answer questions based on propaganda at the time (examples here: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers-of-persuasion ). The students would be able to show mastery by both literally explaining what the propaganda is saying, but also by placing it in its historical context, and explaining what its purpose tells us about the culture that made the poster or other propaganda media, such as cultural myths. This could be presented as its own quiz or as part of a larger test or in-class essay.
Another assessment could arise from analyzing a longer reading. My suggestion would be the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, for a variety of reasons. The simplest is that students already don’t do their assigned readings, and adding a topic as heavy as the Holocaust doesn’t help. But I think it is important to talk about art made in the wake of the Holocaust, by a Jewish author, that grapples with nuanced issues such as racial divides and survivor guilt, and graphic novels in particular are quite striking and easier to read than many other novels, such as classics for English classes. I could see two assessments from Maus. First a debate on whether or not using animal cartoons to depict the Holocaust trivializes the issue, or if Spiegelman’s artistic take on it has a positive, productive purpose. I would think that assigning roles for this debate would be ideal, and specific sources examining each of those claims could be distributed, as there are valid arguments for both of those claims. Another assessment could be a longer essay on any variety of topics. The first essay question that pops into my mind could be: why does Art Spiegelman use different animals to represent different groups, and is this choice a good one? The students would both be examining the myths that Spiegelman is trying to dispel (chiefly the myth that humans can be neatly divided up into racial or even national groups), as well as drawing on their experiences from their debate and the sources they read for it. This is a pretty classic take home essay using multiple sources, and if properly scaffolded as I lay out, I think it could be very successful.
Looking at these three assessments I have designed, I see a powerful curriculum forming, one that builds on itself and scaffolds into nuanced conversations and examinations.