Teaching is not a gift

Surrounded by gifts, as many of us are this time of year, and looking forward to the next semester, I am trying to remind myself of the ways that my teaching is not a gift. Anyone regularly reading this site already knows how dangerous it is to think of good teaching as a gift. Often those…

“Revising” the survey with Ben Franklin’s World

We often emphasize to our students that our lectures, and even our entire courses, have arguments and use evidence to make those arguments. We also talk about historiography, even if we don’t use the term, and show students how historians produce new historical knowledge. This semester, my US I class is using Liz Covart’s podcast…

Teaching Religion in Early America: Struggles and Successes

I often receive comments on my evaluations for the US I survey that I spend too much time on religion. I explicitly discuss religion in quite a few cases throughout the semester – colonial missionaries, Calvinists and Quakers in 17th c. New England, the First Great Awakening, abolitionism, new 19th century religions, and Lincoln’s second…

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…

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…

Un-collapsing history

Teaching the US I and II surveys every semester, one of the first challenges is getting the material to “catch” with students. It’s usually a little easier with US II, but there’s no magic formula. Getting students to see people in the past as people, living complicated lives and facing difficult choices, is key to…