Download the Case Study Report

Benefits of an Oral History–Based Course: A Case Study

About the Class and Report:
oral history class report cover

In 2015, teachers Lisa Thyer and Chris Wendelin created a project-based oral history class at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Palos Hills, Illinois. With guidance from Voice of Witness education staff, they formed a course that centers the development of empathy through collecting and hearing stories from the community. What started as a one-year experiment to create space for students to listen, share stories, and heal through oral history became a popular yearlong course that has been running for seven years strong.

After the seventh year of the class, Voice of Witness wanted to study the long-term effects that this unique course had on student learning. A survey and in-depth interviews were conducted with former students in an effort to measure the impact of the class. Benefits of an Oral History-Based Course: A Case Study on Building Empathy, Community, and Student Skills shares the findings of this evaluation.

A Snapshot:

The case study report details the impacts of this project-based oral history class. Key findings include:

  • Oral history-based courses foster vital student skills, including social-emotional learning, critical thinking, communication, reading, and writing.
  • Engaging with oral history narratives and projects cultivates empathy, challenges stereotyping and bias, and drives positive social action.
  • Oral history education has an enduring impact on students, fostering a sense of curiosity, belonging, and community. 95% of alumni said they use skills learned from the class regularly in their lives now, and 100% reported the class had a positive impact on their lives.
The need for classes like this has never been more urgent.

In the face of increasing politicized divisiveness and educational censorship, it is crucial to provide students with opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives, develop social-emotional skills, and cultivate understanding and belonging. As schools consider developing courses geared towards teaching inclusive history and civic engagement, we hope they will look to the VOW class model for creating immediate and long-term impacts on students’ lives and the greater school community.

An accompanying Stagg VOW Class Toolkit was also created to help educators and programs across the country implement similar courses and replicate the effectiveness.

Download the Case Study Report

* Required fields
* Required fields
I want to recieve:
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Resources