Common Core State Standards: Designed to help students meet the challenges of reading, writing, and speaking and listening, Echoes & Reflections content addresses the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts 6-12 through a variety of primary sources, informational texts, literature excerpts, video testimony, and other information presented in different media and formats.
In addition, the lessons address Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12 by providing opportunities for students to develop and support arguments based on discipline-specific content, compare and contrast information presented in a variety of texts, integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information, and engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: NCSS standards provide a structure for what should occur in a social studies program. This framework, organized across ten interrelated themes, represents a way of organizing knowledge about the human experience in the world; a framework needed to educate students for the challenges of citizenship in a democracy. These themes are:
- Time, Continuity, and Change
- People, Places, and Environments
- Individual Development and Identity
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
- Power, Authority, and Governance
- Production, Distribution, and Consumption
- Science, Technology, and Society
- Global Connections
- Civic Ideals and Practices
Our methodology is based on six principles:
1) Research-based approaches to teaching about the history of the Holocaust, including antisemitism: The wealth of experience brought into the partnership by Yad Vashem roots Echoes & Reflections in critical historical inquiry. Part of this involves understanding the mechanisms of antisemitism as a precursor to the Holocaust, and emphasizing not only that students learn about prewar Jewish life when studying the Holocaust, but also understanding the centuries-long history of antisemitism that allowed the Holocaust to happen.
2) Focus on the individual: A critical element in Echoes & Reflections methodology is to take a history that affected millions of people and emphasize to students that each of those people was an individual: the story of the Holocaust is not the story of six million Jews who were murdered, but the story of six million murders of individual human beings. In order to do this, we advocate using different resources, including visual history testimony and other primary source materials. Understanding the Holocaust doesn’t only mean understanding the loss of life on a massive scale; it also means appreciating that these masses were mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, children, and proud citizens–people just like us.
3) Students as active learners and inquiry-based learning models: In the 21st century classroom, students are active participants rather than passive sponges absorbing knowledge. Echoes & Reflections is designed to harness active learning to help students engage deeply with the content. The instructional strategies employed throughout Echoes & Reflections are rooted in active and inquiry-based learning, positioning students as investigators into the past and tasking them with interpreting the multiple perspectives involved in any complex history.
4) Multimedia primary source materials, including Visual History Testimony, as a critical source of knowledge and inquiry into the past: Replete with primary (and secondary) source materials from different disciplines, Echoes & Reflections encourages students to analyze a wide array of materials from many perspectives in historical context. Photographs, artwork, diary entries, letters, government documents, maps, poems, visual history testimony, and other source materials help students construct an authentic and comprehensive portrait of the past as they frame their own thoughts about what they are seeing or reading, resulting in a deeper level of interest and inquiry. At the same time, the historical background given in Echoes & Reflections allows students to contextualize the primary source materials and root them in the history of a certain place and time.
5) Assessment of Learning: Learning about the Holocaust is a complex task, and assessment of learning is critical to understanding the degree to which our practice has met its goal. Echoes & Reflections classroom lessons provide clear and measurable learning objectives that address national, state, and local standards, allowing teachers to adapt existing forms of assessment to their students’ study of the Holocaust. Student performance on many tasks and assignments in Echoes & Reflections can be met with traditional forms of assessment; however, other material is highly subjective and teachers will need to exercise caution in determining if a student has been successful in meeting learning objectives.
6) Modular Structure: Our content allows teachers the flexibility of using an entire unit, an individual lesson, or several lessons as they build their units of study. The methodology of Echoes and Reflections is predicated on the fact that teachers have varying needs in their classrooms, and the program provides a variety of supports for teachers teaching about the Holocaust, including online resources through the Echoes & Reflections website and IWitness.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) of the program is managed by an independent team of researchers at USC Shoah Foundation, which works to assess the degree to which learning outcomes for educators and students are met, to monitor progress markers, and to assure quality of programs and resources.
Ongoing monitoring assesses participants’ levels of satisfaction with in-person and online programs. In 2019, 96% of respondents indicated that the program was “highly relevant to their teaching needs.” In addition, teachers agreed that as a result of the program, they:
- Increased knowledge about the Holocaust (97%),
- Increased knowledge about antisemitism (96%),
- Learned instructional strategies to teach about the Holocaust (98%), and
- Felt prepared to use Echoes & Reflections in their classrooms (89%).
In 2014, the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) released its findings of a study with educators using Echoes & Reflections. The report indicated strong teacher satisfaction with the content and positive outcomes for students.
- 94% reported that the program increased or significantly increased their students’ knowledge about the Holocaust.
- 92% indicated that Echoes & Reflections was a better or significantly better program when compared to similar programs.
- 86% noted that the program increased or significantly increased their students’ interest in studying the Holocaust.
- 90% reported that the program enhanced or significantly enhanced how their students connected or related to the subject matter.
- 87% indicated that engaging with the materials improved or significantly improved how students perceive or treat others.
In order to assess outcomes, the M&E Team also conducts periodic classroom studies to follow the implementation of Echoes & Reflections lessons. These studies include pre- and post-surveys, focus groups, classroom observations, and teacher interviews. Findings from a 2016 internal evaluation study indicate that students participating in Echoes & Reflections lessons showed greater gains in stated learning outcomes than their counterparts not using Echoes & Reflections content. Specifically, students learning with Echoes & Reflections:
- Learned more about the Holocaust as well as about prejudice, antisemitism, and bigotry than students who were taught a comparable lesson,
- Showed notable increases on critical thinking and understanding of others from different backgrounds,
- Were significantly more likely to recognize that one person can make a difference against stereotyping and bias, and
- Made personal connections to the stories of individuals who experienced the Holocaust, and the relevance to their own lives and larger society.
Contact Claudia R. Wiedeman, PhD, USC Shoah Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org) for inquiries related to any of the reports and findings listed above.
In September 2020, Echoes & Reflections released a national survey that shows the positive outcomes of Holocaust education not only reflect gains in historical knowledge but also manifest in cultivating more empathetic, tolerant, and engaged students more generally. Specifically, the survey found that college students who experienced Holocaust education in high school:
- Report having greater knowledge about the Holocaust than their peers and understand its value.
- Have more pluralistic attitudes and are more open to differing viewpoints.
- Report a greater willingness to challenge intolerant behavior in others.
- Show higher critical thinking skills and greater sense of social responsibility and civic efficacy if they watched survivor testimony as part of their experience.