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Admitting defeat

I had a great new idea for a final project for my survey classes this semester. It was going to be awesome. This assignment was going to draw on the skills my students were practicing every week but then take it all to a new level. Critical thinking! Public writing! Digital tools! The semester started, and…

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Guest Post: Gary Wilson on online exams and minimizing lecture

  We are pleased to include the following guest post from Dr. Gary Wilson of College of the Mainland in Texas City, Texas. In the following post, Dr. Wilson reflects on four decades of teaching and administration, highlighting his use of online quizzes and his attempts to minimize reliance on lecturing.    I taught my first college…

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Progressive mastery in historical thinking

Recently I caught another article about an approach to high school writing instruction that many of you are familiar with: “progressive mastery.”1)Full disclosure: I have not read the deeper literature on this, and much of what I’m doing in this post is simply riffing on some of its broader ideas. If I have fundamentally misunderstood…

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Teaching US History Online: Some Reflections

Next semester, I’ll be offering an online version of my Civil War and Reconstruction course. This is the third time I’ll be teaching this upper-level, reading- and writing-intensive course in a fully online environment. Thanks to being a part of the initial cohort of the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction, I’ve…

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A Game-ified U.S. Survey using Greenwich Village, 1913

Teaching the U.S. survey in an blended/hybrid format offers certain challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, it is a chance to flip the classroom and have students get a hands on experience with big questions, deep textual analysis, and interactive in-class work, having had a lot of time outside of class to engage with…

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Interview with novelist Carol Goodman

Carol Goodman is the author of fourteen novels and the winner of many literary prizes. She teaches creative writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz. Her work frequently engages the past, including her latest novel The Metropolitans. This winter, I sent her a handful of questions about how she understands and employs history…

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Encouraging students to fail

My university’s Center for Teaching and Learning has created reading groups in each of the university’s eight schools. The reading group for the School of Arts and Humanities has decided to read Linda B. Nilson’s Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time (2015). Nilson proposes a grading system called specs grading that…

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Frederick Douglass and an “Unfit” Education

This week in my U.S. survey, we’re discussing Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave. It’s a venerable text, and used so often in the survey that it almost feels like a cliche’ when I assign it. But Douglass is, you might have heard, doing a terrific job that’s being recognized by…