Bret Harte history teacher speaks on project-based learning at national conference

Jennifer Truman

A local history teacher recently took her knowledge across the country.

Bret Harte High School advanced placement history teacher Jennifer Truman gave a presentation at the AP Annual Conference put on by the College Board in Orlando, Fla., on July 19.

Truman, who has taught AP U.S. history at Bret Harte for the past 10 years, spoke on prioritizing project-based learning (PBL) in the AP curriculum.

“There were actually four of us, and we first did an overview of the importance of doing PBLs, and why we do PBLs, and simply a project-based lesson is a lesson that is more than just you study, and do the homework, and write the assignment – you get something more out of it,” Truman said.

Project-based learning is a model for classroom activity that stresses student-centered projects rather than teacher-centered instruction, according to the National Education Association’s website.

“And the AP curriculum being as rigorous as it is, it’s hard for AP teachers to step away and say, ‘You know, I will try and do something bigger than just the knowledge that a student is going to gain out of it,”’ Truman said. “So then, after we went through that, each of us gave an example of that type of lesson that we do, and … I presented one of the several lessons that I do as a PBL.”

The College Board is a “not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity,” according to its website. Founded in 1900, the membership association includes over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions.

The College Board develops and administers both the SAT and the AP Annual Conference.

The AP Annual National Conference is the largest professional development gathering of the Advanced Placement Program and Pre-AP communities.

This year’s conference included over 300 sessions, gatherings and networking opportunities for educators.

For Truman’s PBL project, she first teaches background information on the history of the United States in the 1960s and the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. After that, students read and analyze Johnson’s 1964 “Great Society Speech,” where he outlined the problems facing the country and called for an effort to address them.

“So that’s just learning mode; then comes the PBL part, which is each of my students receive one of the Great Society programs – those laws that Lyndon Johnson got Congress to pass that kind of met his ideals of a great society,” Truman said. “And they have to research that program … and then they communicate about it.”

For the communication portion of the assignment, Truman teaches her students to write press releases announcing the passage of different Great Society programs.

“That’s the project piece of it … it takes a lot of classroom time, it takes a lot of preparation … so that’s the lesson that I presented, because of the higher academic standards,” she said. “So that was what I did in Orlando, and then I had a day to attend other peoples’ lesson ideas, and what they’re doing, and best practices in their classrooms, and I came home with some great ideas.”

This coming school year will be Truman’s 24th year teaching history at Bret Harte. She has also coached soccer, cheer, and currently co-coaches the Academic Decathlon team..



Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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