Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest Region, which is located on the fifth floor of Milner Library, recently expanded beyond the heartland in a big way. Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest Region offers professional development for K-12 schools, universities, associations, and libraries so that they can use primary sources in classroom instruction.

Two years ago, a small team of education experts from the United Arab Emirates attended the National Council for the Social Studies conference to learn about best practices in social science. While at the conference, the team became very interested in Library of Congress projects and wanted to learn more. Included in the additional information the UAE team received after the social studies conference was details on TPS Midwest’s professional development courses and workshops.

As a result of the post-conference follow up conversations, 14 American and Middle Eastern educators currently teaching in the United Arab Emirates participated in the Fundamentals of Teaching with Primary Sources workshop led by TPS Midwest during the summer of 2020. Even though the region has a wealth of primary sources such as the UAE National Archives, the UAE Tourism Department, and an extensive system of museums, taking part in the TPS Midwest workshop would help the team understand how to access and utilize original sources outside of UAE to enhance teaching and learning of international topics.

The Fundamentals of Teaching with Primary Sources workshop series conducted by TPS Midwest included seven lessons and helped the UAE team to understand how to access and utilize original sources outside of their home country with the ultimate goal of enhancing the teaching and learning of international topics. Participants explored ways to use primary sources with their students as well as gathered ideas for writing new social studies curriculum. The series include synchronous and asynchronous sessions divided into seven lessons. At the end of the series, participants give a three to five-minute presentation featuring a primary source lesson plan.

“This is the first time the TPS Midwest Region has had the opportunity to conduct workshops for an international group,” said Judith Bee, associate director of Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest Region. “The experience was very positive and as the participants learned more about primary source instruction, our program learned about how to meet the needs of participants from other countries.”

Bridging barriers

According to Bee, preparation for the UAE workshop series was not too different from their usual planning process. “All TPS Midwest workshops are designed based on the Universal Design Learning Model keeping the success of all learners in mind,” she explained. “While engaging in activities throughout the workshop, learners are given opportunities to explore the Library of Congress resources, selecting primary sources of interest. Learners then reflect about the readings, activities, and their experiences as they engage in each lesson.” Additionally, all of the UAE participants were comfortable with the delivery format of the workshop series as well as were proficient in English eliminating any language barriers.

The only true obstacle resulted from needing to schedule synchronous Zoom sessions across the globe. To accommodate the UAE cohort’s time zone, in-person Zoom sessions were held early in the morning for those in the United States in order to allow the international participants to join the meetings later in the afternoon when their teaching duties had concluded in the UAE. 

While Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest’s primary focus will be to offer professional development regionally, staff welcome educators from all over the world to participate in their workshops. The TPS team plans to continue exploring ways to accommodate cultural differences, language barriers, international perspectives and providing relevant teaching and learning materials to all workshop audiences.

About Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest Region

Located on Milner Library’s fifth floor, the Teaching with Primary Sources program at  ISU is funded by a grant from the Library of Congress. The TPS Midwest Region at ISU is the only TPS consortium facilitated by an academic library. Teaching with Primary Sources works with K-12 schools, universities, associations, and libraries to provide professional development opportunities that highlight the Library of Congress’ vast collection of digitized primary sources in order to enrich classroom instruction. Learn more about Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest.

Quotes from UAE Participants

“The workshop instructor was very helpful and guided me through the activities. It was a very beneficial experience.” -Alma

“I really liked learning about how to use original sources to develop interesting and fun activities for the second-grade book. Initially I thought that the sources would be too high level for the second language learners we are preparing books for, but I found out that there are ways to use images to stimulate conversation, add to a text narrative, provide context, inspire creativity and add depth to the materials. I was surprised at how much there really was to use.” -Deema

“We are grateful for your expert training and look forward to other opportunities in the future.”

“As a historian, I found the loc.gov collections fascinating. I found an image of the first African American baseball team and some other fantastic photos. I can find ways to use these sources in lots of different lessons to take students back in time.” – Participant