Big history offers an unusually rich variety of learning goals and objectives, which are interconnected.
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
The learning goals can be divided into two main (interconnected) categories:
II. Academic skills
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
big history to one’s personal situation.