I met with an old family friend for coffee tonight. He had graduated from high school in 2001, so it was before AP World was offered. Since he majored in history in college, he was interested in what I'm teaching now (it's been since 2002).
I explained how AP World, which covers 10,000 years of history, is virtually impossible to do without focusing on broader concepts and themes. I shared with him the Curriculum Framework (2012) as it stands now, as well as the Curriculum Framework going into effect in 2016-2017. And the shift to the new exam as one that seems to focus more on the larger concepts than what they do now. It's trying to streamline years of discussions and committee meetings of historians and teachers of history of the why students should be studying history.
It intrigued him that AP World provides more of a conceptual framework of history, and since the overhaul of all three AP histories, there is also a shift to Historical Thinking Skills and an exam that streamlines these skills. We don't know how this will look since the APUSH course is rolling out this new curriculum and exam format this academic year. However, I can see how the changes to APWH will be positive, and being able to articulate the advantages of the course to someone who isn't immersed in the details was refreshing.
My friend's response is that history would have been so much more interesting to study had he been able to approach it conceptually. As a young man who has recently joined the US foreign service corps, he would have found learning the global, historical patterns, understanding how to contextualize historical events and being able to synthesize what one knows of the most value. He is already fairly proficient at all of these skills as a young adult, but had wished for a jump start on those skills earlier in life.
So, my question is how do we better approach this course conceptually? What kind of foundation do you set for your students that provides them a better conceptual framework of their understanding of history in general? What are some strategies that are better for framing the course? I have more questions than answers at this point, and would love to get some dialogue going for this!