The Social Studies Critical Thinking Lab is an effort to develop historical investigations that require students to explore historical content in an investigatory manner. These labs are meant to create a purposeful dialogue among students and promote a student-centered classroom with the student as the historian.  In order to be productive, engaged citizens, students must learn to think critically about the world around them and to explore past events and historical information through an analytical lens.

Past historical methodologies have often narrowly presented societies as a course of behaviors and consequences paired with memorization of related facts,  While there is nothing inherently wrong about an instructional approach that includes lectures, in recent years dialogue about historical thinking and education have prompted new approaches to examining history.

No longer constrained to one text resource for the classroom, teachers and students have access to a bevy of choices with available digital primary source libraries and resources that weren’t accessible just a few short years ago.

The “historical lab” method involves using available primary and secondary sources as well as incorporating the scientific approach to students accessing and analyzing information.  Students are presented a question and use the sources to draw conclusions and seek evidence-based answers. Understanding complex historical events through multiple perspectives, students will be better equipped to face the intricacies of difficult decision making in the future.

Select teachers in the Region 13 area (Central Texas) came together to learn more about lab creation for the Social Studies classroom and to generate their own student investigations for classroom use. This webpage, developed in part by a grant funded project through the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region, is a showcase of those efforts.  These labs are meant to create purposeful dialogue in the classroom and to encourage student engagement and critical thinking. More labs will be added in the future and we encourage you use the CTL webpage as one of many available resources for the Social Studies classroom.