By Alexandria Ruble, Scott Harrison, Jane Freeland, Adam Blackler, and Julie Ault
“Here’s a scenario,” I said to students in my course on the Holocaust. “Imagine that right now, the North Carolina state government issues an order that you must leave the state if you or your parents are not from here. How many of you are from North Carolina?” Most students in the class raised their hands. Then, I asked, “How many of you have parents from North Carolina?” Fewer students raised their hands.
Hands wrung to the bone after years of crisis talk, humanities educators may justifiably think there’s nothing left to say about the value of what they do. Caroline Bynum disagrees. A preeminent historian of women in the Middle Ages and former president of the AHA, Bynum has edited a remarkable symposium recently published in the journal Common Knowledge, collected as “In the Humanities Classroom: A Set of Case Studies.” Each of the five essays recounts one or two real classroom sessions in such disciplines as history, art history, and literature.
Looking back over the past academic year, the aspirations and concerns of AHA members about undergraduate history education have been reflected in the pages of Perspectives on History. Our Teaching Division’s initiative on enrollments, led by Vice President Elizabeth Lehfeldt, produced articles spawning productive discussion on our Member Forum, within departments, and elsewhere online. Enrollments relate closely to the varied fortunes of the history major, also explored in Perspectives. The Association is running an ongoing survey of history majors about their career paths, with an eye on producing exemplary qualitative and quantitative data.
Most issues of Perspectives include at least one feature related to teaching and learning. The best of the genre, we think, honestly evaluate student learning outcomes, engage contemporary pedagogical thinking, and offer innovative tools for instruction—that one twist in an assignment that makes all the difference, say.
By Nancy Quam-Wickham
Imagine a crowded room where students—shoulder to shoulder—worked frantically to complete architectural drawings. As the moment to submit their projects approached, an aide pushed a little cart (the “charrette”) through the classroom; students were required to deposit their drawings as the cart passed. Those not yet done with their work leapt into the cart, adding finishing touches to their designs as the cart passed drafting tables. The exercise was a loud, raucous, frenzied, stressful, though profoundly creative experience.
By Jonathan Lee
On August 5 and 6, the AHA held its second annual Texas Conference on Introductory History Courses at San Antonio College. The conference, which was established as a space for instructors of introductory history courses in the state to meet with each other and explore innovations surrounding teaching and learning history in informal networks, built on discussions and initiatives from its previous gathering in August 2015 at the University of Texas at Austin. The 60-plus attendees represented a diverse group of history educators from four-year, two-year, and dual-credit programs.
Every student currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a public college or university in Texas is required to complete six credit hours of US history, a standard that suggests more uniformity than it delivers.
By Beth Marsh and Dana Schaffer
Across the country middle school and high school students are learning about the historical process through their participation in National History Day.