Hi.

Welcome to my website. Here you can read my blog about my ongoing research projects. You can also read my bloviating about current events from a historical perspective. You can also find information about my projects, teaching and find ways to contact me

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

 

My teaching philosophy revolves around three core tenants: helping students to learn to think historically, facilitating active and experiential learning, and pushing students to become better critical thinkers.

To help students to learn to think historically I expose students to primary sources, the flesh and blood of history, from a diverse chorus of voices and facilitate discussions of them. My students get access to a number of different voices, including Native Americans, African Americans, Europeans, women, immigrants, Asian-Americans as well as gay and lesbian writers. These sources expose students to a different slice of American history that they might not have ever encountered before. For instance, in my Women's History course, students read and discuss Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs and compare how the experience of slavery was different for women and men. Along with primary sources, students are exposed to secondary sources written by historians that shed light on historiographical debates. For instance, students in the first half American history course read essays by historians debating who actually freed the slaves during the Civil War: Lincoln or the slaves themselves?

In addition to primary source workshops, I facilitate various active learning techniques and run experiential learning activities. The pedagogy suggests that students have a variety of learning styles, and I realize that the traditional lecture format does not work for all students. To appeal to different learning styles, I bring in a variety of active learning techniques, including: discussions, flipped classroom activities, collaborative learning, and project based learning. For instance, in my American history survey course, I facilitate student led group discussions on essays on historiographical debates such as whether the U.S. should have fought in Vietnam, or changes in sexuality in the 1920s. We also sing Civil War songs and analyze them for how the Union war aims changed; we analyze post-WWI paintings; we assess sexism and racism in 1950s advertising. Additionally, I expose students to experiential learning activities and give them hands on knowledge in the lived experience of history. For instance, in my American history survey course, I organize a Continental Congress activity where students are divided into five major colonial delegations and have to work out a compromise to reach a unanimous vote for independence. This activity puts students in the moment of history, and opens their eyes to contingency.

Finally, to help students become more critical thinkers, I have students read and digest primary and secondary sources from diverse and sometimes conflicting writers. Students, through short writing assignments and/or discussions, investigate the sources looking for the purpose behind each piece and asking questions about intent and bias. Students learn that interpretation can be difficult and challenging. For example, in my American history survey class, students read two essays by historians with opposite arguments about whether the U.S. should have dropped the Atomic Bombs on Japan, or whether there was nonlethal or less lethal alternatives. I then facilitate a discussion on the essays. All of these assignments help students relinquish their assumptions and digest the context out of which the document was written. Following homework of discussions of sources, students become familiar with engaging with texts more fully and to use these critical thinking skills in college and beyond.

Ultimately, I want students to leave my class not merely with more knowledge about American history but with a new or enhanced way of thinking. I want them to always think about interpretation and bias. I want them to appreciate complexity and nuance. I want them to become more critical when listening to an argument, reading a book, voting for a politician, writing an assignment for a future class, or working on the job. History is uniquely positioned to teach all of these skills, and I believe my students will leave class better prepared to meet them.

Battle for Room 314

Battle for Room 314

History of American Women (Syllabus)