Modeling High Quality Work as an Instructional Tool

Laura Stott

History teacher Laura Stott from Madison Public Schools, Conn. is part of an innovation project to experiment with personalized learning throughout the year with Allison Zmuda.

My students, in addition to taking their AP US History exam on Friday, May 5, are also right in the midst of conducting their interviews. That means that I am going to be sitting down with my willing guinea pig, my husband Tom, to record our interview. Tom is an Iraq War veteran, and I’m interviewing him about his experiences as a soldier.

I am committed to doing each step in the interview process alongside my students for two reasons.

First, I think that modeling is a powerful instructional tool. Students can see me struggle through the process alongside them and can see an example of high quality work rather than only my attempt to describe the qualities of high quality work. I can find the potential pitfalls in the assignment and help students to avoid them, or find areas that require redesign or re-explanation.

Second, completing the oral history interview process alongside my students is FUN! As Allison stated eloquently, I’ve found a lot of “joy in my practice” by participating with my students, and viewing the assignment from their perspective.

Below, I’ve included the text of the interviewee biography I wrote about my husband.

AP US History
Oral History Research Project
Interviewee Selection
Due: ​March 21 – Homework grade.

Select an interviewee and submit a one page biography. The biography should include:

  • A brief overview of the interviewee’s background: provide some specific information to help us get to know your interviewee. How old is he or she now/was he or she at the time of the event? Where was he or she living? Is there relevant job or education information? Family status? (4 pts)
  • The historical event or trend on which the interview will focus: how is your interviewee tied to this event? (4 pts)
  • A photograph (2 pts)

Laura Stott
AP US History
Oral History Research Project
Interviewee Selection

Interviewee: Thomas Stott

Tom was born in Virginia in 1978 (age 39), and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2000. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army, and was stationed in Darmstadt and then in Babenhausen, Germany. He was a platoon leader in the 440th Signal Battalion. His job included training and overseeing a group of soldiers that provided communications for headquarters units.

When 9/11 occurred, the soldiers did not fully understand what had happened, and all of the American bases in Europe were put on lockdown. This means that patrols carried live ammunition, and every vehicle entering the base had to be carefully inspected. Tom learned that his battalion was being deployed to Iraq in the late fall of 2002; by this point, he had been promoted to a battalion signal officer responsible for planning and executing all of the communications plans for an artillery unit.

Tom began his one year tour of duty in Iraq in late February 2003, and participated in the initial invasion of Iraq. He was promoted again to a Brigade Signal Officer, responsible for the communications for four battalions. The units he worked with fired some of the first shots in the invasion, and headed north through central Iraq. The artillery units operated multiple launch rocket systems, and were firing on enemy command and control units. They also provided suppression of enemy air defense for Apache helicopters. At the “conclusion” of hostilities, which many said happened after 6 weeks, the units were camped in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces outside of Baghdad. This location would eventually become the Coalition Task Force Headquarters. He left Iraq in March of 2004, and the army in July of 2005.

When I conduct my interview, I plan to ask Tom about his experiences as a soldier during the Iraq War. I am particularly interested in how soldiers in the 21st century experience warfare in comparison to soldiers we have studied in other wars. I also want to ask him about whether he felt fighting in such a controversial war had an impact on him.



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