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Learning goals and objectives

General aspects
 
Big history offers an unusually rich variety of learning goals and objectives, which are interconnected.
 
From my personal point of view, the overarching goal is that students will acquire the skills to understand big history as one single process and view the world accordingly, including placing any topic or subject within a big history perspective as long as that is deemed useful.
 
The learning goals can be divided into two main (interconnected) categories:
 
I. Content
II. Academic skills
 
These categories are elaborated below. There may well be other, more personal, learning goals that go beyond academia. Such goals, which may be very relevant from personal points of view, will not be further explored here.
 
It is, of course, up to the teacher of a particular big history course to decide which learning goals and objectives will be pursued. The following should therefore be seen as suggestions.
 
While teaching big history, most of the content is provided by the textbook and possibly other required reading as well as by teacher’s presentations. This content can be used tor examinations. Classroom activities may generate a great deal of further (sometimes unplanned) content.
 
The learning goals and objectives discussed below on this web page are of a very general nature. For every course, they need to be further specified, for instance: per session, per article or, in case of my book, per chapter. A list of learning goals per chapter can be  downloaded here as a Word document.
 
Not all general learning goals and objectives mentioned below are applicable to every class situation. The list below may serve as a checklist for determining which categories of learning goals and objectives are applicable to specific situations.
 
 
General aspects of big history content learning goals and objectives
 
Perhaps the most important aspect of big history is that all its aspects can --and, in my opinion, should-- be viewed as processes describing the rise, development, and decay of certain forms of complexity, from the emergence of the tiniest particles to the rise of the most delicate human expressions. General background information on processes in big history can be found in my earlier book The Structure of Big History (1996).
 
In big history, the greater the levels of complexity become, the harder it is to define a specific set of specific detailed learning goals.
 
The history of the early universe is relatively simple and straightforward. It is therefore relatively easy to define the major content learning goals for this period of big history.
 
But as soon as the physical processes become more complex, most notably on our planet Earth, formulating detailed goals becomes increasingly difficult. This is even more the case with the history of life, its interactions with geological and cosmic processes, and, most notably, human history.
 
As a result, over the course of big history the formulation of detailed content learning goals becomes ever more open to discussion, while they are increasingly based on the insights of particular scholars. Yet some degree of consensus about these learning goals seems to be emerging, which is expressed in the textbook.
 
 
LEARNING OBJECTIVES I:
Content
 
1. General aspects of big history:
 - Achieving an integrated view of past, present, and future on the largest possible scale.
 - Understanding Big history as consisting of multiple and interacting processes, each describing the rise and decline of complexity and its consequences.
 - Understanding the history of big history
 
2. The proposed general mechanism underlying all of big history:
 - The importance of matter and energy flows, complexity, Goldilocks circumstances, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
 
3. Major transformations toward greater complexity:
 - Emergence of matter and energy, of galaxies and stars, heavier chemical elements, planets, life, and humanity.
 - Which forms of complexity declined or disappeared over time?

4. Important ‘factual’ knowledge:
 - Which important aspects of big history happened when?
 - How have these processes led to today’s situation?
 
5. Major scientific paradigms:
 - Big bang cosmology, plate tectonics, theory of evolution.
 - The histories of academic disciplines, most notably of the major discoveries leading to our current view of big history.
 
6. Specific mechanisms:
 - Examples include: path dependency; dynamic steady state; energy harvesting mechanisms; inventions followed by adaptive radiations; emergence of consciousness; unbeatable head start.
 
 
LEARNING OBJECTIVES  II:
Academic skills

1. Connecting all knowledge to the big history time line.

2. Critically examining a wide range of historical evidence and scholarly interpretations from a big history perspective.

3. Summarizing and presenting interdisciplinary literature in creative ways.

4. Participating in balanced and congenial interdisciplinary discussions based on empirical evidence and scholarly interpretations.

5. Thinking creatively in interdisciplinary ways.

6. Engaging in interdisciplinary activities.

7. Writing an interdisciplinary essay  from a big history perspective based on original research.

8. Presenting preliminary research results in engaging ways.

9. Dealing creatively with interdisciplinary questions to which no good answers are available.

10. Relating big history to one’s personal situation.
 
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International Big History Association
Un. of Amsterdam big history
Cosmic Evolution
Big History Project
Chronozoom
Book: Teaching Big History
Bill Bryson: Short History of Nearly Everything
Other useful stuff on the web
Other big history
resources
Feedback
How to use the book
Course models
Learning goals and objectives
Teaching tools
Assignments (little big histories)
Answers to FAQs by students
Questions by students and teachers that go beyond the book
Examination models
Teaching big history