Intermediate Resources: A Conversation with Brenda


Dear Colleagues:

The hardest part about climbing mountains is getting out of the rut. Your many private responses have revealed there is little or nothing being done at the intermediate level in genealogy classes across the continent to teach the average genealogists to distinguish between sources, ideas, and evidences. Nor are these people being taught the genealogy proof standard.

There is a huge need for teaching and guided learning in these areas at the intermediate level. All falling in my book if I ever get it done. There will be useful instructions on how to teach and learn these things. Thank you so much for your insights.


Dear Ken,

When you say little or nothing is being done to teach the distinctions between sources, information and evidence .. and people are not being taught the GPS .. are you including or excluding the National Institute’s 6-part Methodology courses, and the 3-part Analysis & Skills Mentoring program? Both sets are compulsory for certificate students.

I know you’re very aware of what’s involved in the A&S program, because your part in it is so important (I have even *more* respect for you–if that’s possible–now that I’ve had a couple of scholarly article chats!). But I don’t know if you are aware that the Methodology series includes exactly that which you are (rightfully) promoting. Information-sources-evidence are introduced in Meth-1 and Meth-2. By the time they get to Meth-6 they are being tested on case studies.

Your message today (16 December) mentioned that [evidence and analysis] skills should be introduced in “the first 20 weeks of instruction.” It’s hard to relate that to our kind of online instruction which does not go on
for 20+ weeks.

I hear your disappointment that most current teaching apparently does not deal with the GPS and evidence analysis early on. This is something that I’ve worked on since I began with the Institute and while it sometimes takes a frustratingly long time to get the changes & additions into the online course material, I plug away at it.

I’m curious enough to ask the question above (1st paragraph) because I’d like to know from you how the Institute rates in this regard. Or yourregard. I know there’s much more we can do, but so few hands for so many tasks.


Dear Brenda and Colleagues:

The challenge of introducing more complex concepts in genealogy research like the GPS and evidence analysis over 6 to 8 weeks of instruction, is to realize that you can only introduce increments. You build that increments like a spiral, so each new level builds on the old level, so ideas can be introduced,.planted, reinforced, applied and build on, but not necessary instantaneously. For example, I heard Helen Leary demonstrated how to teach sources information and evidence concepts as if it were in the first three hours of instruction, simply by using the students’ own documents, from their wallet or purse.

Would they have a perfect knowledge? Of course not, but the terms would be introduced and bit by bit could be planted, etc., as the ideas revisited in the later instructions. This is sometimes called spiral approach to curriculum development.

Many of the core courses taught by the national institute for genealogical studies: Brigham Young University; National Genealogical Society correspondence courses use this approach at least in part in many classes. However, most genealogists who pick up two or three classes in their local colleges rarely benefit from such thought out instructions, so that is where my comments to you, Brenda.


One response to “Intermediate Resources: A Conversation with Brenda

  1. Hi Ken
    It is great to see you blogging again when you are able. I enjoy your entries and the comments you receive.

    Since I heard Helen Leary speak, I have tried to work in some aspects of evidence and analysis to any talks I give. With any concept, repetition and practice is so necessary .

    Last year when I was asked as a fill in to give a 2 hour talk on the 5 Ws of Genealogy, I included a case study in the second half. I wasn’t sure if the audience of seniors who were attending this lecture series would want to hear about my search and the conflicting pieces of information on my great grandmother’s parentage. I showed examples of the documents in the PowerPoint presentation. Feedback received said that was the best part.

    When I gave the first of two training sessions to the reference staff at the library, I talked about GPS before even talking about the resources in the library and how to help library patrons. I also presented an updated version of the case studey on my great grandmother. I talked about the research process. Helen Leary’s motivation – sparked part of their homework to bring documents from home to discuss at the second session. They had a great time with this and it has sparked several to do more research on their own families.

    A final example is that I am working with a small group from the Historical Society teaching them research techniques with an emphasis on evidence and analysis. At each session so far they bring with them documents to discuss. They can’t wait for me to stop talking about the topic to talk about what they have brought.

    So Ken – keep reminding us all about the importance of evidence and analysis in our own research and in the presentations or courses we give. Repition is important.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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