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Historical Thinking Skills & Inquiry Processes

Greetings everyone!

Welcome to my mini-course! My name is William Radcliffe, but most people call me Billy. Before teaching, I started college at SUNY Orange and then transferred to SUNY New Paltz, where I eventually received my Bachelor's Degree in History and Education. I'm currently enrolled in graduate school at UAlbany to complete my Master's Degree in Curriculum Development & Instructional Technology. I have also been working as a secondary, social studies teacher over the past 3 years. I previously taught classes designed for 7th and 8th grade, U.S. History during the first year of my career. However, since then and currently, I have been teaching classes designed for 9th Grade, Global Studies at a city school district in the Hudson Valley, N.Y. I absolutely love being a teacher and it's a privilege to help our youth grow into pragmatic adults and contributing citizens in our 21st century, global society.

Overview and Purpose

Historical Inquiry Processes

The Global 9 content begins during the transformation from the Paleolithic era to the Neolithic Revolution in the earliest, prehistoric contexts of the world. In 9th Grade, Global Studies, there's a high emphasis for promoting historical skills related to analysis, contextualization, geographic reasoning, corroborating sources, etc. The course ultimately ends around the time of the Colombian Exchange and will pick back up from there until current 21st-century contexts when students begin taking 10th Grade, Global Studies classes at the start of their sophomore year. Students will then use the skills they developed from their freshman year of global studies to perform successfully on the New York State Regents Examination at the end of Global 10. Therefore, skills related to analysis, contextualization, geographic reasoning, corroborating sources, and so on will be highlighted features of this mini-course, using Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences as its primary topic and purpose to assess students' newly learned knowledge and critical thinking skills they recently developed.

The topic of this course refers to raising levels of literacy and historical thinking skills in classes designed for 9th Grade, Global Studies by using data from Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory. This course is designed for high school teachers who want to promote higher levels of critical thought and historical analysis for all students in equitable ways, considering diverse learning styles, readiness levels, and preferred types of intelligence that often vary between adolescents individually. Each unit of this course will focus on two different intelligence themes or types from Gardner's theory, acting as an effective practice to differentiate instruction for distinct types of learners, while assessing their development of skills accordingly. Different levels of historical skills here will correlate with the 8 types of intelligences mentioned in Gardner's theory (i.e., Visual-Spatial, Linguistic-Verbal, Logical-Mathematical, Body-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalistic). While this course will introduce two types of learning styles per unit, each unit will also focus on two historical skill-sets that students are expected to know, develop, and perform successfully according to the final assessment at the end. Another primary purpose is to provide teachers with further opportunities to help students develop lifelong skills and accurately think like a historian based on their different intelligence types, styles, and preferences that tend to vary by individual. At the end of this course, students will pick two historical skills they learned about from a choice board in the "Final Assessment Project." The Final Assessment will include a choice board, where students will demonstrate their new knowledge and understandings in regards to the desired outcomes of this course by deciding how they wish to assess themselves using two skills they choose in ways that align with their own learning style or intelligence type based on Gardner's Theory. Not only will all students hopefully meet the learning targets, goals, and desired outcomes of this lesson collectively, but providing them with choices will result in highly equitable learning experiences, since students will have additional opportunities to choose two skills they want to use via one assessment approach that fits their learning styles best based on 1 of the 8 themes emphasized in Gardner's theory.

Learning Outcomes & Goals

8 Themes from Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple intelligences

When finished with this course, learners will:

  • Be able to identify, use, and apply historical thinking skills using a number of diverse learning styles from Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
  • Be able to understand the practices that lead to higher levels of skill development and historical analysis.
  • Know where to access credited research that supports these interventions for skill-based learning.
  • Be able to demonstrate their newly learned knowledge and development of historical processes involved in this mini course by choosing two skills and assessment-type that aligns with one theme from Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory, which should strongly relate to their individual learning style(s) accordingly.

Needs Assessment

1. Existing Gaps & Instructional Problems

Most teenagers do not enjoy learning or reading about history, viewing it as an outdated subject that involves prior events which don't matter anymore. While traditional contexts of teaching history used to solely rely on the memorization of people, facts, dates, and prior events, there's now a high emphasis for promoting skills related to helping students think, read, and write like historians as part of 21st century, instructional design. According to the article, "National Council of Social Studies," there are several 21st century topics and skills relevant for current practices in social studies such as "global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health literacy" (Yell, 2008). As research has shown why historical skills and processes like these are now important practices for social studies classes, it's evident how some students may lack interest, lose motivation, or encounter more challenges than others when trying to develop these complex skills consequently.

Among other circumstances, these problems mainly exist not only because some students have poor attitudes or views about history as a primary subject to learn, but ideally due to common misconceptions about how we currently study history and why developing these new skills are now an important component of designing instruction today. This explains why in 21st century teaching and learning contexts, standards imposed from federal, state, and local governments have recently pushed social studies curricula to promote historical and literacy skills such as as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving "in students by exposing them to new ideas and perspectives" (BJU, 2020). Most of these concepts are new and complex to learn, so studies have shown why some students may view certain practices to develop these skills as a daunting task that they're incapable of learning or performing successfully. This is why credited research also suggests using themes from Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory to help students overcome their own unique challenges, while developing historical and literacy-based skills they need in ways that are less intimidating, equitable, and more suitable to their own learning styles and academic strengths.

By using Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence as the overarching theme and purpose of assessing knowledge in this course, I'm hoping that students' will use their preferred types of intelligence to help them demonstrate what they recently learned and how they developed the historical skills they need in suitable approaches to them. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences is the ultimate validation of the idea that individual differences are important; therefore, "its use in education depends on the recognition of, and respect for, each learner's way or ways of learning, as well as each learner's special interests and talents" (Brahams, 1997). While learning and innovative skills such as creativity/innovation, critical thinking/problem solving, and communication/collaboration have clearly become integral components for 21st century instructional design, Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory provides many resolutions for social studies teachers trying to help students overcome a range of learning challenges that often prevent them from developing skills effectively. In response to these complex challenges and needs that are often mixed between students individually, this supports why Howard Gardner believes that "characterizing a learning style along with a dominant intelligence is essential" (Yavich, 2020). The 8 intelligence features highlighted in Gardner's theory acts as a guide for teachers to identify students' diverse needs and mixed learning styles before adopting desired outcomes, primary objectives, and assessment-types involved in a lesson. As a result, this is also why I intend on using the "Backwards Design" model when considering how I'm going to design my materials and instruction for this course, but more importantly in ways that are appropriate for all types of learning styles, mixed needs, and individual preferences.

According to credited research, there are many strategies I intend on using to resolve the potential challenges I previously described. A number of studies have shown how learning processes can be enhanced when teaching practices and outcomes are consistent with learning styles, yet "at the same time, the goal is not to 'tailor' a solution for each student, but to develop learning skills among learners appropriate for all types of learning" (Yavich, 2020). This is why my goal is to abide by the three stages of the "Backwards Design" model when thinking about how I want to craft my instructional tools, resources, and learning goals throughout this course. While the first stage of backward design considers particular learning goals, examines established content standards, and reviews curriculum expectations, the second stage of this process focuses on determining assessment evidence, where teachers typically “distinguish between two broad types of assessment—performance tasks and other evidence” (Wiggins, 2011).  Additionally, stage two of backwards design also identifies six facets of understanding for assessment purposes that I also plan on incorporating in this course. According to the UbD framework, someone gains a true understanding when they can explain concepts, principles, and processes by putting it their own words; can interpret by making sense of data, text, and experience through images, analogies, and stories; have self-knowledge by showing meta-cognitive awareness; and so on (Wiggins, 2011).  These desired outcomes mentioned by Wiggins (2011) supports how Backwards Design connects with the approach I'm going to use when assessing students' new knowledge, overall understanding, and developed skills at the end of this course using a number of intelligence styles, types, and approaches. I also plan on considering which personal factors outside of school will either help or prevent students from gaining knowledge and developing these new skills accurately.  Taking these ideas into consideration, I will then incorporate stage three of the backwards design process which focuses on planning learning experiences, designing instruction, and crafting activities - unlike other teaching processes in traditional school contexts where this step would usually come first. This is why teachers should initially define the specificity, level of detail, and the type of outcome for their lessons first, before writing outcomes that correlate and clearly communicate expectations (Larson, 2020). I plan on referring back to the Backwards Design model on a consistent basis as I continually adopt, edit, and make improvements in subsequent components throughout this course.

As backwards design considers the final outcomes and assessment-types of a lesson by using evidence first, it clearly makes it a lot more feasible for teachers to design instruction appropriate for all types of learners, since the learning goals, objectives, and desired outcomes expected for students to master will already have been established. Ultimately, this course will also help students foster additional life and career skills such as "flexibility and adaptability; initiative and self-direction; social and cross-cultural skills; productivity; and leadership and responsibility" (Yell, 2008).

At the end of this course, I designed a choice board in the "Final Assessment" project to give students a sense of ownership in regards to how and what they learn with a number of options suitable to them. Students must pick at least two historical skills they learned about from the previous four units, demonstrating it's importance and significance in regards to reading, writing, and thinking like a historian using at least one learning style they resonate with from Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory. In other words, students will choose any approach they wish to assess their development of historical skills using one learning style or intelligence type from Gardner's Theory that fits their conceptual identities. I'm hoping that all students will meet the learning targets, goals, and desired outcomes of this lesson collectively as a class, where providing them with choices will also result in equitable learning experiences, considering the different options students have in regards to choosing two skills and one type of intelligence based on Gardner's theory in the final assessment . I'm also auspicious that after completing this course, more students will eventually view social studies as a more meaningful subject that is relevant to learn for their everyday lives.

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (2020) provides supplementary resources to help students develop higher levels of historical and literacy-based skills, including guides for teachers wanting to design instruction based on the 8 themes mentioned in Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences - there's a number of tips for adopting practices that help cultivate the joy of thinking, reading, and writing like a historian!

2. What is to be Learned

Educators will learn the benefits of using Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory to create assessments and differentiate instruction, while promoting historical skills and processes in their classroom. Students will learn how to read, write, and think like a historian by demonstrating specific skills that are suitable to them after completing the Final Project at the end of this mini course.

3. The Learners

The learners are other teachers and pre-service teachers taking ETAP 623. Most likely, the learners who choose this course will be teaching social studies classes in secondary grade levels ranging between 7-12.

4. Learner Analysis

Learners who choose this course are most likely Humanities or Social Studies teachers who are interested in raising the level of historical skills and processes in their classroom. Learners most likely will have some familiarity with such skill processes and practices.

5. Context for Instruction

Content will be delivered online and participants will be able to access it at home or at work, wherever they have an internet connection and a computer device.

6. Exploring Existing Gaps, Problems, and Solutions

The course will provide participants with a further understanding about challenges related to increasing levels of historical thinking skills, while using evidence to justify why it is necessary for teachers to continually attempt to raise it. Participants will explore ideas from Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory to differentiate social studies content and instruction, including assessment choices as an effective practice to promote higher levels of literacy and historical thinking skills.

7. Intent Statement

A goal of the course seeks to help educators gain a better understanding of Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory for those attempting to design instruction that raises critical thought and historical thinking skills in the classroom. Another goal is to give educators additional tools and aid for implementing strategic activities in their classrooms that would foster a development of life skills necessary for students' current lives as adolescents, including preparation of global citizenship for their futures as adults in our complex, 21st century society.

Performance Objectives

ADDIE Template

Define course-level target objectives

  • Students will be able to (SWBAT) reflect on and self-assess his or her own strategies for developing historical skills using Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory.
  • Following the presentation of resources and ideas, students will be able to (SWBAT) apply historical thinking skills to analyze CRQ documents in each unit based on 2 of the 8 intelligence types from Gardner's theory that suits their diverse learning styles.
  • Students will be able to (SWBAT) record and reference the resources/information accessed during the course to create a visual representation of particular resources that seem useful to them.
  • Students will be able to (SWBAT) create a final project of their choice based on the 8 features of Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory by using 3 or more types of historical thinking skills, and explaining how they could fit into their current/future lives.

Task Analysis

Goals: Participants will develop historical and literacy-based skills from one learning style they identify with according to Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.

KASI - Knowledge:

  • Some familiarity with different types of historical skills and their historical importance/significance.
  • Minimal exposure with examining CRQ documents and considering diverse perspectives from various historical texts.
  • Familiarity with the different needs, abilities, and learning styles of the students in your classroom/grade-level.


  • The willingness to move away from traditional anchored instruction.
  • The belief that all students can read, write, and think like historians.
  • The belief that raising the level of skill development will result in effective performances in thinking, reasoning, writing, and testing.
  • A willingness to incorporate authentic learning tasks that are both student-friendly and hands-on.
  • An understanding that skills can be developed in a number of different ways under pedagogical theories and mixed intelligence types that learners personally identify with best.


  • Ability to creatively adapt hands on and differentiated strategies to fit your classroom environment.
  • Identify opportunities to incorporate new strategies, desired outcomes, and assessment-types into curricula.
  • Ability to navigate the internet and perform basic research skills.
  • Ability to organize thoughts into graphic organizer using learning styles that suit students' preferred types of intelligence according to Gardner's theory.

Interpersonal Abilities:

  • Openness to constructive criticism, feedback, and ideas for revision.
  • Ability to obtain and give feedback to peers
  • Capable to reflective and self-improve.

Prerequisites: Must have access to computer and internet connection; must have a belief that all children can enjoy reading, writing, and thinking like a historian; and the belief that raising levels of historical thinking skills are important.

Curriculum Map

External References & Resources

BJU Press. (2020). Social Studies Skills and 21st Century Skills. Teacher Tools Online®. https://www.teachertoolsonline.com/views/teachers/public/articles/detail/article/c/a142/

Brahams, Yvonne Rae. (1997) "Development of a Social Studies Curriculum Reflecting Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences". In Theses Digitization Project. California State University 1424.

Larson, M. B., Lockee, B. B., Erlewine, M., & Fuchs, M. L. (2020). Streamlined ID: A Practical Guide to Instructional Design (2nd ed.). essay, Routledge.

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2020). Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Northern Illinois University. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2011). The Understanding by Design guide to creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Yavich, R., & Rotnitsky, I. (2020). Multiple Intelligences and Success in School Studies. International Journal of Higher Education, 9(6), 107–117. https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v9n6p107

Yell, M., & Box, J. (2008). Embrace the Future: NCSS and P21. Teaching History. https://www.socialstudies.org/system/files/publications/articles/se_7207347.pdf