Standards for Genealogical Instructors
- Newsletter of the BCG
Elissa Scalise Powell, "Standards for Genealogical
Instructors," OnBoard 7 (May 2001): 13-14.
All professionals must have standards in which to operate
within their profession. In genealogy this is made quite
easy by studying The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.1
The book covers standards for researchers, both professional
and personal, and for lecturers, instructors, and writers
of genealogical materials. Standards 61 through 66 are aimed
at “… teachers who present an extended series
of interactive presentations that address genealogical methods
and sources at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level.”
The text further notes that the standards should be upheld
in any setting of instruction, whether formal or informal.
Standard 61 speaks about presenting a
course that is “well organized, comprehensive, and
sequential in nature.” Being well organized helps
your students to feel at ease and gives them confidence
in what you are saying, as they see that you have taken
care in the manner in which it is presented. Devising a
sequential course and presenting it in an outline form will
not only help those students who are logically minded but
also enables everyone to understand that the “building
blocks” come first. Students can quickly find out
through assignments that if they do not have the basic information
they cannot progress. Therefore an outline of the course
is helpful to show that you are organized, to let the students
know what topics to expect when, that it is comprehensive
in relation to the stated goals, and to show the sequence
of the research cycle.
Standard 62 lists five basic areas in
which the students should become knowledgeable. Awareness
of genealogical sources can be enhanced by allowing
the students to browse some of the pertinent books, and
by providing a bibliography and a list of appropriate Internet
URLs along with a list of local and national repositories.
Respect for materials and their custodians should
include what to expect of genealogical and historical personnel
at repositories, and how to ask for materials. Odd as it
may seem to us, some students need to be reminded that the
“public” in public library does not mean unauthorized
removal of the materials, nor defacing or tearing out pages.
To develop the ability to conduct creditable research
is the goal of any genealogical course. Note that, unlike
“credible,” “creditable” means both
“worthy of belief,” as defined by Webster’s
New Collegiate Dictionary2, and also “able
to be credited to sources.” Each photocopy, transcription,
or abstract must note its source on its face, and each pedigree
or family group sheet must list the source for each item
of information [Standards 8-12]. Each student should also
realize the value of the ability to compile useful reports
of the results. Sharing well-written and documented
reports can enhance a sense of family pride. Even if people
are doing this “just for my family” they should
be able to habitually use accurate citations of sources.
They should be impressed with the fact that this not only
saves much work for future generations, but also makes the
family history “worthy of belief.”
Standard 63 refers to having “a
means for evaluating student outcomes.” Most often
this is accomplished through written testing or oral questions,
but to determine if a student has understood all that he
has been taught, the evaluation procedure could also include
reports (oral or written) on the student’s family
or research project.
Standard 64 requires instructional materials
that are “accurate, clear, up-to-date, reasonably
attractive and appropriate” to both content and level
of instruction, calling on the instructor’s creative
talents. Handouts and presentation visuals should be reviewed
each time they are used for accuracy and correctness. If
you are referencing or using Internet URLs, test each one
to see if it is still a viable website. The handouts should
be packaged attractively and allow the student to follow
along with the presentation. They should have room for those
who like to take notes directly on the handouts. Whether
the presentation visuals are overheads, slides, videotape,
or computer-generated demonstrations, keep them lively and
colorful. Consideration for varying learning styles should
be made when creating presentation materials. The visual
learner retains what he sees and delights in colorful visuals,
cartoons, and slides. This person may also take notes as
a visual reminder of what they heard. The auditory learner
needs the spoken word to be explained clearly, in descriptive
language, and with examples and stories to enhance the lesson.
Changes in voice inflection will keep interest. The tactile
learner retains knowledge when he is able to do hands-on
research; a field trip would help this learner enforce his
knowledge. An example of structuring a lesson for these
different styles would be to teach the census unit using
visual diagrams and written examples for the visual learner.
Explaining each example and giving a story by which to remember
the material helps the auditory learner. For the tactile
learner, a trip to the nearest repository with census microfilm
will help to reinforce the lesson as they thread their microfilm
machine and scroll down the reels. Using a variety of learning
approaches helps assure you’ll include the one that
works best for each student.
Standard 65, cross-referencing Standard
59, requires that bibliographies use standard bibliographic
format, which differs from the style used in individual
source citations, for materials mentioned and those for
further study. Sharing where your background material came
from is a good example to the class of how useful bibliographic
citations can be. Students can look up the books you used
in order to review the lesson, and to gain further insight
into the subject. Since lesson time is typically limited,
one cannot present everything that is related to the topic.
A bibliography is a helpful guide to the student who wants
to read more on the subject as well as to enhance his own
Standard 66 encourages the instructor to reflect excitement
in the classroom through presentations that are “effective
and varied, encourage student participation, and foster
interest in or enthusiasm” for the topic. If we recognize
that everyone has a different learning style preference
as we present the materials in their varied forms, the students
will achieve their objective of learning the subject material.
Encouraging students to ask questions, discuss their experiences,
and share their research will help everyone, including the
instructor, to learn more. Having the students involve a
family member, perhaps by bringing them along on a field
trip, will help the student continue to have interest once
they are beyond the classroom. One student I had, a young
woman, brought her father on a field trip to the library
where we were doing census work. They looked up his mother’s
birth family and then left early to go see the actual house;
the genealogy bug was now spreading in that family. Share
your enthusiasm with the students and they will catch fire!
- Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG
Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry
Publishing, 2000), 22.
- Henry Bosley Woolf, editor, Webster’s New
Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts:
G. & C. Merriam Company, 1979), 265.
Elissa Scalise Powell, CGRS
This article was originally published in OnBoard,
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