The Potsdam conference : a teaching strategy involving primary documentation.

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Sweeny, Michael
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation holds that the student in college level American History surveys should be exposed to primary documents to help him interpret evidence and present conclusions no matter what field of endeavor he follows after his college experience. It is further suggested that the format that would work best would be one in which the primary documents are interwoven into the text and not one in which the student has to go to the appendix of a book or to the library to obtain the documents.
A 186 page paper was developed presenting a selected group of primary documents covering the Potsdam Conference. The principal sources of these materials was the United States Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference) 1945, Volumes I and II. This was supplemented by materials from newspapers and several memoirs.
Selection of materials was made to present a balanced view of the conference while emphasizing issues which seemed likely to interest the students. They were the fate of Germany, the final settlement of the Polish problem, plans for defeating Japan and the postwar settlement with that country, and the activities, influence and views of Harry S. Truman. The three official documents issued by the participants, the Proclamation, the Communique and the Protocol, were attached in their entirety.
This dissertation was tested in three courses at Middle Tennessee State University in the summer of 1982. Each student was given a printed copy of the Potsdam paper. The students were given one week to complete an essay on one of five topics. They then took a multiple-choice and identification test to see if they read the paper and answered a questionnaire, which among other things inquired if they would have gone to the library and read the main text of the documents.
Results indicate a document was developed that was applicable to all grades and sexes. The students performed very well on the essay and read the other materials. They much preferred the inclusion of the documents in the text rather than in an appendix or the library.