Assessing 21st Century Skills with Library of Congress Documents


The Stanford History Education Group has created a library of what they call a “new generation of history assessments” featuring interactive primary sources for teachers. Called Beyond the Bubble, these assessments are based on primary sources from the Library of Congress and are geared to teach higher-level thinking skills–something many bubble-in multiple-choice tests can’t do.

The assessments included in the collection feature primary sources like Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother or a letter to Thomas Edison. Each primary source has related questions designed to get students to think about history more deeply–away from factual recall–a process SHEG calls “History Assessments of Thinking.” The formative assessments included in the collection can reinforce content taught during a unit by getting students to apply factual knowledge as they evaluate evidence and develop historical argumentation.

As the site explains, the assessments in Beyond the Bubble:

  • Take only a few minutes and are easy to score
  • Come with rubrics and samples of student work
  • Promote academic literacy
  • Provide windows into students’ thinking

Each source comes with a printable PDF file that teachers can give to students during class. 

An example of a source in the series from the Haymarket Square bombing in 1886 and its corresponding PDF:


The site is easy to use and the assessments are designed incredibly well. Free, engaging primary source assessments? That’s pretty cool!