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From Story to Judgment: The Four Question Method for Teaching and Learning Social Studies

From Story to Judgment: The Four Question Method for Teaching and Learning Social Studies

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The Four Question Method (4QM) identifies the questions that drive the thinking that real people do when they take the human world seriously. The authors, Jonathan Bassett and Gary Shiffman, have figured out how to describe and teach what it takes to answer those questions well. 

This inquiry method gives educators a way to integrate content ‘coverage’ – through storytelling! – with practice in thinking skills that are central to history and its affiliated academic disciplines, together called social studies. 

The Four Question Method helps teachers to plan more effectively and students to learn more effectively. It provides guidance for writing research essays. And it transfers. The skills our students practice will work for them when they encounter and make their own history. 

About the Authors 

Jon Bassett has wanted to be a history teacher since he was in middle school. He has a BA in history from Columbia University, an MAT in history from Brown University, and an EdD in curriculum and teaching from Boston University. Jon has taught history in grades 9-12 on all academic levels, from Advanced Placement to at-risk students. He is the founding partner, with Gary Shiffman, of 4QM teaching. 

After graduating from the State University of New York at Binghamton with a BA in political science, Gary Shiffman taught elementary and middle school in New York City and Maalot, Israel. Well chastened, he attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, where he studied political theory. He then taught for eight years at the University of California, San Diego. Chastened again, he became a high school teacher in 2002, when his current partner and then department chair hired him to teach history at Newton North High School in Massachusetts. Four years later he became Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator at nearby Brookline High School, where he teaches one class and supervises and evaluates teachers. He co-founded 4QM Teaching in 2017.