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Julieofsardis

Document Based Questions

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I have run across information about DBQ's in relation to the AP History Exam and was wondering if anybody knows a good resource for teaching them.  Specifically, some examples in world history. 

 

 

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The College Board has lots of examples on the AP course websites. Here is the archive of past Free Response Questions for the AP World History test. Each one includes a DBQ. They also provide scoring guidelines and examples of student responses with their associated scores.

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I have run across information about DBQ's in relation to the AP History Exam and was wondering if anybody knows a good resource for teaching them. Specifically, some examples in world history.

Search for "AP world history DBQ rubric" . Each history exam has it's own standards for what gets points in grading. So it's not enough to answer the question. You need to answer in such a way that readers see the items from the rubric. For example Euro looks for grouping the documents together by themes, point of view of the author and outside information added to the essay.

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Our best resource has been to use the released questions. I have my kids write one with no time limit. Then we grade them using the scoring guidelines. CB also has sample essays with high medium and low scores. The Q&A document helps teachers know what students were prone to miss on that question.

 

Another practice we did for Euro was to go through several sets of exam questions and just write a thesis statement along with 2-3 supporting points to make. That helped with knowing how to read and answer the question. Often the question would have multiple parts.

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I used Critical Thinking Through US History as part of the AP US History course I devised for my own kids. That was an easy way for me to incorporate reading historical documents and interacting with them throughout the school year. ( I left out the parts that didn't focus on the history).

 

I also did National History Day with my kids. Doing the research for their projects taught them to use historical documents correctly.

 

And then, in the final 2 weeks before they took the AP exam, we used the Princeton Review book to go over the test - and added in extra practice as those above have suggested.

 

Do keep in mind that AP US History is changing this year - not sure if it will affect the DBQ portion much though. It is the easiest part of the test in my opinion as students really just need good reading skills and the ability to assimilate the information and structure their essays in a logical way. 

 

 

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It is worth being aware of how specific exams have changed their DBQs over the past few years.  AP World History was changed first, AP US History changed for the 2014-15 school year and AP European History is being revised for 2015-16.

 

This isn't to say the above is not a good book for learning to use documents as a source for essay writing (I used 32 Problems in World History as part of AP Euro this year and it is several decades old); just be aware that for the purpose of AP exams, there may be some really specific grading criteria and that the criteria isn't the same from test to test.

 

This is the scoring guideline document that was used for the questions on the 2014 exam.  http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/ap14_world%20history_scoring_guidelines.pdf

 

Question 1 was the document based question.  Questions 2 and 3 were essay questions without document sets.

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This is a pretty lengthy discussion of the considerations for writing an AP World History dbq essay.  http://tjca.teamcfa.org/staff_pages/shaun_alexander/view/41537/ap_world_history_dbq_writing_tips_and_rubric

 

I would add that there is a major difference between the AP exam dbq and doing history "in the wild" if you will.  The dbq questions have pre-selected the documents.  They come with a little bit of identification as to author and date.  But the student has to draw their own conclusions about point of view or bias based on what they might know.  On the other hand, when writing an article or book on a historical topic, a historian is more often faced with piles and piles of documents.  A huge part of their job is determining what is worth including and how far to trust it vs where to question it.  

 

Just to give an example, I helped to research a very minor topic during World War I.  There were 2-3 full books of copies of the telegrams sent in and out of the committee back to the home country, just for the few years the committee existed.  Then there were internal reports, letters, inspection reports, inventories, contracts with companies, etc.  A huge part of the task of recreating what had occurred with this group was in building layer after layer of what each document adds to the understanding of what they were doing.

 

The dbq's are a small step in that direction.  But like any exam created to assess a large number of students at once, it can only cover a few documents and only ask a general question.  The most recent AP US History exam used only 6 documents.  That is almost half the number that used to be used on the APUSH exam.  The Walch book looks cool.  I like the way it asks the student to specifically comment on each document.  On the other hand, because of space concerns it has to use excerpts.  For example Kipling's "White Man's Burden" is represented with just the eight lines of the first stanza.  There are six more stanzas, and I would suggest that it's a pretty complicated poem that reflects Kipling's frustrations with many aspects of colonial service (I imagine many Iraqi war vets would identify with the feelings in the poem).  But the first stanza alone looks pretty damning toward Kipling.

 

I like dbq's, but I also have to realize that there are specific goals for using them within the AP exams.  Often they are simply trying to get the student to recognize and express conflicting ideas related to a specific topic.  

 

One thing I did with AP Euro was to use several books with documents and commentaries upon the periods we studied.  Hopefully when the kids were sitting on their exam, they were able to remember reading other documents and points of view and were able to use that background with the documents on the question.

 

Typically you can find books with these types of readings pretty cheap if you use one that is a couple years old.  (My attitude was that a 10 year old book on the Roman empire is just fine.  In fact one book I really liked was published in 1965.)  Look for books that are listed as "Problems" in history or "Aspects" of a period or as a "source book".  

 

Examples:

This one has a lot of secondary essays on historical topics.  Depending on when the essay was written, they form a shadow historical document (ie, a renaissance commentary on Roman civilization also presents a primary document about values held during the Renaissance.  It gets Inception-like quickly.)  http://www.amazon.com/Aspects-European-1789-1980-University-Paperbacks/dp/041503468X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1434134240&sr=8-2&keywords=aspects+of+european+history&pebp=1434134249480&perid=BB9D1C861D894CD9AA90

 

On the other hand, this one uses more primary documents, like writings from Cicero or excerpts from Greek plays.  (I used a slightly older edition that was even less expensive used.)  http://www.amazon.com/Aspects-Western-Civilization-Problems-Sources/dp/0205708331/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1434134429&sr=8-2&keywords=aspects+of+western+civilization

 

The excerpts in Aspects of Western Civilization are quite a bit longer than what is on a dbq.  They are more like 1-3 pages.  They do offer introductory notes and a "consider this" question and sometimes "broader perspective" questions at the end of readings.  But they don't have the umbrella question that pulls several readings together.

 

There are several series of "Major Problems" books.  Major Problems in American History, Major Problems in European History, Problems in European Civilization, Problems in World History etc  I even have a few older volumes that cover topic in East Asia.  BTW, "problem" in this sense isn't a critique on what occurred or a discussion of what is wrong with that culture or history or civilization.  It is a way of framing a discussion of a specific historical topic.  (I've seen some reviewers savage the Major Problems in American History books based only on the title.)

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I have the Walch book and it's not bad, but if you are looking at doing any of the AP history exams, then don't spend the money. In addition to the resources mentioned above, there is a wealth of information supplied by AP history teachers on the web. It's all free.

 

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I have the Walch book and it's not bad, but if you are looking at doing any of the AP history exams, then don't spend the money. In addition to the resources mentioned above, there is a wealth of information supplied by AP history teachers on the web. It's all free.

 

 

It would not be hard to take the documents from a released exam and add lines below it with similar questions to help a beginning student think through the process of analyzing documents.  Or you could have a couple pages with questions keyed to each document.

 

Ex. 

 

Document 1. 

What is the point of view of the author of this document

What does the document say about the topic of the question (tailor the phrasing to match whatever the question is)?

Document Group

 

One thing we did prepping for the Euro was to go through a dbq and have the kids group the documents together, explain what their groups were and write a thesis statement.  Then we matched that to the scoring guidelines.

 

We also went through the sample essays and scored them ourselves using the guidelines.  That helped with knowing what was enough and what wasn't.

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