Two Teaching Tuesday Thoughts

Today will be a hectic Tuesday full of letters of recommendation, grading, teaching, and preparing for the ASOR Annual Meeting at the end of the week. 

So, I can only offer a couple quick thoughts on a Teaching Tuesday:

First:

For the last five years I’ve made the final assignment in my undergraduate historical methods course (History 240: The Historians’ Craft) a prospectus for a larger paper. This required students to assemble a bibliography, identify trends in historiography, and establish a historical problem that subsequent research would solve. I asked that each prospectus included a one-page case study that would draw upon primary source evidence to demonstrate how they intended to address a historical problem. This is a fairly standard assignment for mid-level undergraduates in history. 

But, it rarely worked for my students whether because of execution of the specific assignment or the preparation leading up to the assignment.

We’re in the process of reimagining our curriculum in the department right now and adding a required class between the 200-level Historians’ Craft and the 400-level capstone. Since part of that class is guiding the students through to writing a prospectus, I’ve removed that largely-failed assignment from my 200-level course and replaced it with a new assignment. This assignment asks the students to identify a primary source that appears in several different historical monographs and articles and to explore how different scholars use that source. Ideally, they will be able to recognize that different scholars approach a source in different ways. The goal of this assignment is to make the students demonstrate between primary and secondary sources. This is a key element in historical analysis. We’ll see how it goes.

Next:

I was pleased to receive a revise-and-resubmit from the History Teacher for my paper with Cody Stanley on our work in the Scale-Up Classroom last semester. The paper emerged, in part, from my blog posts on the topic and was written quickly. Our goal was to get something submitted and to get some feedback on whether our ideas and observations deserved wider circulation. Having never written anything for peer-review remotely related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), I was not particularly confident.

The revisions suggested by the reviewers are almost entirely structural and stylistic. They recognized the hasty composition and a certain amount of bloat that came from trying to say as many things about our experience to as many different people as possible. (This is related to the “throw it all up on the wall and see what sticks” method of argument.) They also suggested that we engage the growing body of scholarship on Scale-Up teaching more thoroughly. Finally, both reviewers seemed to want to hear more about the relationship between the content (an intro-level history class) and the actual mechanics of the course. This is all manageable.

It was great that the journal gave us a deadline for our revisions. This encouraged us to take their request that we revise and resubmit seriously.

But, for now, I need to survive the week.   

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