American Educational History
What's the Most Important?
Last updated 5-15-2014

Overview: This Web-based lesson plan is designed to introduce students to key events in the history of American education as they explore an educational history timeline and choose events they believe to be the most important. They then discuss their choices in small groups and attempt to reach a consensus on the five most important events in American educational history. The lesson can serve as an introduction to the topic of educational history or as a stand-alone activity.

Grade Level: This activity is intended for college students but could probably be successfully completed by high school students.

Outcome: Students will learn about key events in the history of American education as they explore an educational history timeline and make choices about their relative importance.

Procedure:  Assign students the task of reading American Educational History: A Hypertext Timeline and clicking on links to additional information regarding events they believe are interesting and/or important. Explain that their task is to choose the five events included in the timeline that they believe are the most important in the history of American education. Define "important" as events having the greatest impact on American society. Tell them that they should write a short paragraph about each event they choose that briefly describes it and explains why it is important.

During the next class period, divide students into groups of four or five. Direct them to share their lists and then reach a group consensus on the five most important events in the history of American education. They should decide on a rank order for their five events and then write their list on the board in order of importance (with the most important event at the top of the list). Have each group choose a spokesperson.

When all groups have put their lists on the board, ask each group spokesperson to explain their choices. Initiate a whole-class discussion regarding similarities and differences between the lists as well as students' reasons for including their choices. Add any important events you believe the students have overlooked. Write them on the board and explain why you consider them important.

Closure: Conclude the discussion by trying to reach a consensus regarding the events the class believes make up the top five. Though actually reaching a whole-class consensus may not be possible, the resultant discussion should prove both valuable and interesting.

Extension: Assign your students the task of using the Internet to identify other important events in the history of American education that do not appear in the timeline. Have them send their suggestions to
esass@csbsju.edu.  If I deem their ideas worthy, I will add them.



Return to American Educational History

Have questions or comments about this activity? My name is
Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.
You can reach me at
esass@csbsju.edu