Website Review

Beyond the Bubble

Stanford History Education Group

Created by the Stanford History Education Group, Beyond the Bubble is a fantastic initiative that provides educators with an array of thoughtful and easily implementable history assessments. As noted by the site itself, these History Assessments of Thinking (or HATs, as they are referred to on the site) are aimed at teaching students how to develop methods of historical thinking, rather than just the recall of names, places, and dates. To that end, Beyond the Bubble has provided over 100 short assessments that touch on both American and world history. These assessments are further divided into specific historical thinking skills, including: contextualization, sourcing, background knowledge, corroboration, use of evidence, and periodization. Notably, assessments can sometimes focus on more than one skill e.g. sourcing, contextualization, and corroboration.

Looking at the lessons themselves, users will find that there are two main types: 10 ‘flagship’ assessments that provide more in-depth content, and ‘alternative version’ assessments which are similar to the flagship ones, but are on a slightly smaller scale. The flagship assessment on The First Thanksgiving, for instance, teaches students how to source historical documents. In this case, the focus is specifically on interrogating when a painting was produced and whether or not it can be considered a useful historical source. Educators can thus download the assessment itself, a rubric, mini lessons that build on the main HAT, and a range of sample student responses. In addition to the above, all flagship assessments also come with a short video that ties into the HAT and introduces the concept at hand.

In contrast, the alternative version assessments only provide downloads for the assessment itself and its associated rubric. Given the increased amount of content in flagship assessments, users are encouraged to begin exploring the site via these particular HATs and then moving on to the alternative version assessments once they have familiarised themselves with the flagships. Importantly, both flagship and alternative version HATs also include a link to the source material that has been used for the assessment -- these being either the Library of Congress or the World Digital Library (WDL). For the latter, it’s worth noting that most WDL entries come with bonus information in the form of short write-ups about the source and educators can definitely consider including them in their assessments.

Interface-wise, the site is straightforward to use and users should have no problems whatsoever when it comes to using it. Users will require an account to access any of the downloadable material, but the process of setting one up can be completed in a matter of minutes and is free to boot. At present, users are able to filter HATs according to topic or historical skill. A complete list of HATs is also available for users who prefer to have all options available at once.

While the bulk of the content is geared towards middle-school students, educators at high school level or even college level should be able to find valuable bases to build their own assessments on. Overall, Beyond the Bubble should be a staple for school-level educators seeking to add value to their history curriculum. The assessments are easy to follow, rooted in solid historical skills, and with a little work, can also be adapted for different contexts or even year levels.

Reviewed by Joanna Lee, Monash University

How to Cite This Source

"Beyond the Bubble," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/beyond-bubble [accessed December 1, 2021]
Poster for a play called 'Battle Hymn', depicting the red outline of abolitionist John Brown and a blue flag
“Beyond the Bubble is a fantastic initiative that provides educators with an array of thoughtful and easily implementable history assessments. ”