- Thematically Organized Surveys: One striking example at the University of Kentucky focuses on citizenship: historical controversies over the rights of immigrants, voting rights, marriage rights, and other rights.
- Interdisciplinary Clusters: Georgetown, UCLA, and the University of California, Berkeley are experimenting with paired and team-taught courses that combine the insights of a variety of disciplines on a topic (the 1960s, for example) or problem (climate change).
- Career-Aligned Pathways: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley redesigned the pathway through the biomedical sciences to emphasize professional identity formation, with students taking a history course in the history of disease and public health, a literature class on the literature of pain and illness, a philosophy course on medical ethics, and an art history class on representations of the body. The University of Texas at Austin has an introductory-level course on the history of engineering.
- Inquiry-Driven Approaches: The University of Michigan’s History 101, which focuses on the question “What is history?,” offers an overview of the approaches historians have taken to studying the past and how they analyze and interpret historical sources and uncover the meaning of history for life today. My own inquiry-driven US history survey course focuses on solving historical mysteries, wrestling with troubling moral dilemmas rooted in history, interpreting a wide range of historical sources (artifacts, architecture, fashion, film, hairstyles, maps, naming patterns, paintings, photographs, and political cartoons, among others), and responding to such questions as “What if?” and “How do we know?”
Read the entire piece at AHA Today . Of course no discussion of innovative approaches to the history survey course is complete without considering the work of Lendol Calder. Lendol has been talking and writing about these matters for years.
Yesterday we did a post on Lendol Calder’s use of “Point Paragraphs” in the history classroom. Calder’s piece was a part of larger Perspectives on History forum titled “How to Get Students to Think, Talk, Share, Collaborate, Learn and Come Back for More.” Here is a taste of Elizabeth Lehfeldt‘s Introduction to the forum:
We’ve all been there. Our syllabus specifies that a percentage of the course grade will be based on participation. We’ve presented riveting material or assigned a provocative reading. We show up for class, stand at the front of the room, and begin lobbing questions at the students. And the silence is deafening.
Our intentions are good, but something is missing in the execution. The four pieces offered here offer strategies and ideas for lifting our class discussions out of the doldrums and making them meaningful and efficacious for students.
Check out the forum here.
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling have returned to their classrooms for another semester of college teaching. What better time to once again explore the importance of pedagogy? John discusses issues surrounding secondary history standards and the way we train our teachers. They are joined by “The Tattooed Prof” Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) who unpacks his own “Teaching Manifesto.”
I just learned about Greg Specter‘s Duquesne University course titled What the Founders Read at the Pedagogy & American Literature Studies blog. It looks great. Here is a taste of his post on the course:
This semester I’m teaching What the Founders Read. The class is a 200-level literature course and it is cross-listed with Political Science. I had one goal when I began designing the course: make sure that the Founders would run. I made several tactical choices about the focus of the class and the works that I included. I made sure to include Hamilton; I made sure to play that up in the course description. I included works like The Federalist Papers in order to meet the needs of the course’s cross-listed audience. Many of these choices altered my initial vision for the course. As I began planning the day-to-day trajectory of the course, I felt the class leaning towards what the Founders (and Lin-Manuel Miranda) wrote—not what they Founders read. I began to see nothing but problems the foundation of my class. Honestly, I started to rue even thinking about planning and teaching the class. I still find it a challenge to write and think about this course…
In light of the narrow topic of the course’s primary readings, I sought to assign additional resources that introduced a variety of perspectives. Given the topic of the course, the content is largely white and male—a direct result of the topic proposed. I sought to mitigate this limited focus by including a unit on the correspondence of Abigail and John Adams, plus a unit on the poetry of Phillis Wheatley. Still, the women included in the course can be seen as defined in relation to their connection to the Founders. I wanted to include additional voices and perspectives in this class. This is a 200-level course with a lot to cover. I did not want to add a wealth of secondary materials, but it would be irresponsible in a course like this not to include current critical conversations related to the Founders. I tried to reach a middle ground on this issue in two ways. First, I wanted the course to have a component that focused on public scholarship: pieces that were easy to read, models of writing for a general audience, but still rigorous. I selected works from popular media, blogs, podcasts, and other sources.
I tried the best that I could to include a diversity of voices and perspectives in the class, especially regarding scholarship by women, but I need to do better. In selecting readings and podcasts I added as many voices as I could. In day-to-day course meetings I try to be aware of which voices I emphasize from our readings. I try to point out these disparities in class discussion. Though the course doesn’t emphasize assigned secondary readings directly from journals or books, I want students to come away from the class aware of the ongoing critical conversations– like those that inspired the Women Also Know History initiative. In selecting the assigned pieces I made sure to select works that could act as conduits to additional secondary sources. I also created a Twitter list that could be a student resource.
Read the entire post here.
Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, James Lang offers four things you can do in the first five minutes of class to get your students engaged.
- Open with a question or two
- Ask students what they learned in the last class. (Don’t tell them).
- Ask students to revisit “not just what they learned from the previous session, but what they already knew about the subject matter.”
- Have students write down their answers to points 1-3.
See how Lang unpacks these suggestions here.
Get up to speed here.
Burstein‘s post is titled “How to write an essay about teaching that will not be published in the NYT, Chronicle, IHE, or anywhere else.”
From “The Little Professor” blog:
1) There are many pedagogical techniques.
2) These techniques vary in usefulness, depending on the discipline, class size, role in the major/GE program, level of instruction, content, classroom layout, time of day, available technology, instructor’s skill set, the university/college environment, and student demographics.
3) Depending on changes to any or all of these variables, these techniques may or may not work from one course to the next. They may or may not even work across two sections of the identical course taught during the same semester/quarter.
4) Not all techniques are suited to all instructors.
Ben Wright, a historian at the University of Texas at Dallas, challenges his fellow history professors to start reading scholarship related to pedagogy. He even uses the label “anti-intellectual” to describe those professors who are unwilling to engage with such literature or who look upon this literature with condescension.
Here is a taste of his post at Teaching United States History:
Is the lecture dead? Should history professors employ more group work in their classes? A small discussion on these related topics has been raging through the history blogosphere. If you want to get up to speed, check our Chris Gehrz’s piece at The Pietist Schoolman, “The Value of the ‘Sage on the Stage’.” I love his introductory paragraph:
I am currently working with the tech people and my academic dean at Messiah College to put together a mini- iTunes class tentatively titled “An Introduction to Everyday Life in Early America.” The course will mostly focus on eighteenth-century evangelicalism, the social world of the Enlightenment, social mobility, and consumerism. It will draw from the lectures and discussions that will take place in the British Colonial America course I am teaching this semester.
During a production meeting yesterday we realized the the Messiah College Registrar had the class scheduled for a seminar room rather than a traditional classroom. While I have taught this class as a seminar before (there are about 15 students enrolled), I thought that a more traditional classroom with desks, chairs, a lectern, and a screen might work better for the iTunes project. We got the class switched.
One of the reasons I wanted to move the class to a traditional classroom was because I still believe in the lecture mode of teaching. When I say “lecture mode” I am not suggesting that I will spend the entire semester talking at the fifteen students who are enrolled. I rarely lecture this way. Most of my lectures tend to be presentations of material interspersed with questions and student participation. But I still believe that there is a place for a professor to stand before a class, filled with passion and enthusiasm for the subject, and tell short stories about the past. I also think that this makes for a better iTunes presentation.
I am writing about this today because I just read Chris Gehrz’s defense of the lecture at The Pietist Schoolman. Chris calls our attention to an essay on lecturing by Richard Gunderman, a medical school professor at Indiana University. Here is the crux of Gehrz’s post–a combination of his analysis and Gunderman’s article:
(Gehrz): Read his whole post, but let me pull out one point that seems especially important: that there is something unique about “the physical presence of the lecturer and the unfolding of the lecture in real time” that makes a difference in how students learn. Once we understand that the “core purpose of a great lecturer is not primarily to transmit information” (since there are other ways to do that — e.g., reading), then we can see that:
(Gunderman): The real purpose of a lecture is to show the mind and heart of the lecturer at work, and to engage the minds and hearts of learners. Is the lecturer enthusiastic about the topic? Why? Could I get enthused about this, too? How could I use this to take better care of my patients? Is this the kind of doctor or nurse I aspire to be some day?
A great lecturer’s benefit to learners extends far beyond preparing for an exam, earning a good grade, or attaining some form of professional certification. The great lecture opens learners’ eyes to new questions, connections, and perspectives that they have not considered before, illuminating new possibilities for how to work and live. Without question, it also helps learners who pay attention earn a better grade, but it manages to make the topic take on a life of its own and seem worth knowing for its own sake, beyond such narrow, utilitarian advantage.
And Gehrz continues:
Most of all, I’d have resonated with the stress Gunderman placed on “delight” — not simply that of the lecturer (though that’s essential), but also of the learners, who are “not merely sitting and passively listening. Far from it, they are challenged and engaged, actively thinking and imagining right along with the lecturer as both struggle toward new insights…. A great lecture is not a rote mechanical reading of notes, but a kind of dance, in which lecturer and listeners watch, respond to, and draw energy and inspiration from each other.”
Great post. I am glad to see that Chris has returned from Europe and is back into the swing of things at The Pietist Schoolman.