Reading Group on the Guidelines

Discussion Questions for reading the Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy at your home institution.


The Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy were developed by a joint SAA-RBMS task force. The document begins with an introduction to the reasons why educators might teach with primary sources and an overview of the purpose of the guidelines. It includes a definition of a primary source and of primary source literacy. The guidelines are introduced within the context of core ideas that indicate how users of primary sources might engage analytical, ethical, and theoretical concepts, and practical considerations. These core ideas inform the next section; the learning objectives educators may use to structure their lessons on primary source literacy. The remaining portions include a glossary of terms, an annotated bibliography, related resources, and background on the development of the guidelines.

Possible discussion questions

• How can these guidelines be incorporated into our teaching?

• Which is your favorite learning objective listed here?

• Which of these theoretical/ethical concepts are most difficult to teach? Which do you think our students already grasp?

• Could we imagine building a whole lesson plan around just 1 or 2 of these learning objectives? Which ones?

• Choose a specific learning objective. What types of primary sources might you use if you’re working toward that objective in a lesson?

• What happens if we pick one of these and think about teaching it to different classes from across the disciplines (a class in Natural Sciences, a grad class in the School of Information, an undergrad History seminar)?

• Which learning objectives are most helpful for teaching difficult content?

• Are there some learning objectives you could cover in a single session? Are there others that require a whole unit or semester?

• How would you sequence these learning objectives?

• What else might you need (support, resources, training) to teach with these guidelines in mind? • What changes when we think of teaching with digital surrogates?

• Are there handouts, technologies, or other teaching tools you might incorporate into a lesson that is working toward one of these objectives?

• What accommodations would we make for some of our students?

• How would you assess understanding of these objectives?

• How can we use these guidelines to begin conversations with others who are teaching with us collaboratively?

Andi Gustavson and the RBMS Instruction and Outreach Committee, 2019.

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