Why They Can’t Write

Why They Can’t Write

I picked up John Warner’s Why They Can’t Write : Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities after hearing good things about it from colleagues, and following John himself on twitter.  I quite frankly longed to be told why my students found writing challenging.  (There is much I can intuit about my students’ habits, and still more I suspect, but there are limits to both.)  I thought the book would be a brief accounting of someone’s faults (students, faculty, administrators…

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Revisiting the First Day

Revisiting the First Day

I was lucky enough to be part of a panel at the AHA last week that talked about formative assessment – assessment that provides an instructor with an opportunity to see what students are learning and provide them with feedback mid-stream, usually separate from the act of awarding a grade. I talked about SOCC, a structured way of teaching my students how to analyze primary sources that doubles as a formative assessment method. You can read all about the panel…

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SOCC at the AHA

SOCC at the AHA

Thanks to everyone who came to the panel I was part of yesterday at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. I was lucky enough to present with Lendol Calder of Augustana College, and Steve Mintz from the University of Texas at Austin on formative assessment in college classrooms. Natalie Mendoza kicked us off and brought us home with great comments, and the questions from the audience were insightful and thoughtful and I enjoyed talking to everyone so much!…

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Strong Emotional Reactions

Strong Emotional Reactions

I’m someone who’s a big believer in content warnings. Each term, my students and I identify topics in my courses that might trigger someone in the room – cause a profound psychological and physical reaction, for example. I then indicate that on the syllabus, in class, or on my LMS so that those students can make an informed decision about how to interact with readings, discussions, and in-class materials. I believe that warnings allow students (and professors) to manage otherwise…

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The past two weeks

The past two weeks

[TW/CW for discussion of sexual assault] Fifteen years into my active recovery from more than one sexual assault, my ability to speak honestly about what I’ve experienced is conditioned by wariness, protectiveness, and fear. There are relationships to protect; there is the relative power and influence of one of my abusers with which to contend; there is societal investment in my silence. I’ve done the math, sat down with my therapist and weighed my wish to bare all with the…

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Teaching the Five Skills

Teaching the Five Skills

Over on twitter yesterday, @zavoodie asked a really great question: [A tweet that reads: Do you have favorite grad and undergrad assignments that utilize @AHAhistorians ‘s five skills?  I’d love to hear about them and how they worked in your classes.] I wasn’t familiar with the Five Skills before Jeff’s tweet – which isn’t so surprising since the AHA seems to be pitching them toward grad school faculty and students and I teach at an undergraduate-only institution. But in reading…

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Where do we stand?

Where do we stand?

Over the last week I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the inaugural cohort of Bright scholars at the Bright Institute at Knox College. Under the leadership of Serena Zabin (who has deftly challenged us to think creatively about all manner of issues related to the American Revolution) we’ve talked about new books in the field of Vast Early America, things we’d like to see the field do better, and ideas for where the field could go next. In…

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A word about what we do

A word about what we do

Early in the term in all of my mid-level and upper-level history classes, I ask students what historians do. We make a list on a whiteboard, and the students get the big ideas up there: go to conferences, do research, write, and teach. I have them break those down. What goes into going to a conference? There are proposals and presentations to write, slides to create, funding to secure, travel to undertake. Similarly, we talk about everything that goes into…

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Serena and Mercy

Serena and Mercy

Recently, a friend told me that the umpires at Wimbledon call Serena Williams “Mrs. Williams,” despite the fact that she has not taken her husband’s name or otherwise asked that her marriage be professionally recognized. The hiccup is that Wimbledon only recognizes “Miss.” and “Mrs.” (not Ms.) as acceptable prefixes to a woman’s name. (It does not use any honorific for men, but notes the husbands, wedding dates, and wedding locations of women in the glossary of the Wimbledon Compendium.)…

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For Those of Us Who Do Not Love the Archives

For Those of Us Who Do Not Love the Archives

I’m in the middle of an extended research trip to Philadelphia, where I’m working as a short-term fellow in the library of the American Philosophical Society. The APS is a wonder – the staff have been unfailingly generous and kind; the library itself is beautiful; the sources are abundant. And yet I’m struggling. We don’t often talk about the realities of archival work. I could line up article after article talking about the difficulties of teaching, one of the three…

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