What I’ve Learned about Learning Goals

What I’ve Learned about Learning Goals

I read a wonderful interview with Natalie Mendoza this morning, in which she offered a wonderful articulation of alignment – making sure that your course goals, assessments, and instruction are all synced with one another: “Let me explain what alignment is. Alignment includes three steps. The first step would be identifying learning objectives. What is it that you want students to learn? We talked about skills, we talked about concepts, or content – any of those things could be learning…

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Fun With Scissors Day

Fun With Scissors Day

Today was “Fun with Scissors!” day in my methods class, otherwise known as our end-of-term paper workshop. I’m sure I am not the first or only person who believes in cutting up papers to emphasize organization, strong thesis statements, and good topic sentences, but in case you’ve never heard of the tactic, here’s how it goes: Everyone brings in a complete first version of their paper to class, printed single sided. They scribble out the in-text footnote numbers, and then…

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Teaching Our Grad Students How to Teach

Teaching Our Grad Students How to Teach

The other day, Jesse Stommel tweeted a thread about how we train our graduate students to teach. It got me thinking about my own experience, and how much work graduate programs need to put in to make sure we do better. I was 22 years old when I first began teaching. I was an English, first-generation, immigrant graduate student, brand new to the American system of education, and just six weeks past my own graduation with a BA in American…

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Bias and Perspective

Bias and Perspective

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be part of a conversation on Natalie Mendoza’s twitter feed about teaching students about bias and perspective. Here was Natalie’s articulation of the teaching challenge ahead of her:   One of the many suggestions Natalie received was from Laura Westhoff: I saw this tweet right before a class session in which my own students were thinking about bias and perspective. Their homework assignment was: (I’ve written about the kind of reflections my students…

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Hunger is an Educational Issue

Hunger is an Educational Issue

Christian Schneider’s recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel / USA Today column takes issue with the idea that college and universities should care whether their students go hungry. Read that again. He takes issue with the idea that colleges and universities should care whether their students go hungry. Schneider recalls that as “a broke college student in the mid-1990s, I learned every trick in the book to keep myself fed.” These tricks included skipping meals entirely, working in restaurants where he was fed…

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Reverse Engineering: Teaching Bibliographies and Footnotes

Reverse Engineering: Teaching Bibliographies and Footnotes

The final assignment in the methods course I teach almost every year is a historiographical paper on a subject of the student’s choice. Earlier in the term, as a first step toward that final paper, students have to create a bibliography of primary and secondary sources from which we’ll choose, together, the books and articles that they’ll weave into that historiography. For a long time, my students struggled with this task, and I struggled to figure out how to help…

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Wearing a New Hat

Wearing a New Hat

I’m taking an online language course with an institution that’s not my own this semester, and it’s teaching me an enormous amount.  The learning isn’t yet about the language – that will come in time – but about what it’s like to “do college,” especially as a new student. I was entirely out of my element when it came to seeking admission.  First, I couldn’t find the portal for non-degree-seeking students (hint: scroll all the way down the webpage, Cate),…

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Making Memories in New York

Making Memories in New York

[This post was originally on Storify; I’m archiving a slightly updated version here now that Storify is going away.] Every two years I teach an upper-level seminar called Museums, Monuments, and Memory. In that course we explore basic theoretical approaches to public history, as well as building an entire exhibit from the ground up in the lobby of our Center for Fine Arts. I choose the topic, but the students take over from that point on and figure out the…

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Making the Grade

Making the Grade

I saw a tweet sometime last year that suggested if one found grading an onerous task, the solution was to design assignments that were fun to grade.* I admit to thinking the idea was preposterous.  Grading, for all twenty-two years of my teaching life, had been an uphill battle against the forces of procrastination, resentment, and frustration.  This had nothing to do with the quality of the work that my students produced – their papers were regularly fantastic.  But I…

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My Teaching Philosophy and Stephen Colbert

My Teaching Philosophy and Stephen Colbert

Those of you who’ve read this blog before will recall that in August I rewrote my teaching philosophy. Instead of addressing it to faculty or administrators, I addressed it to my students, and it was a liberating experience. Suddenly, concepts that I’d had trouble articulating in the past came easily, and my words communicated a sense of purpose that I’d always felt but had rarely been able to express. I expected that teaching philosophy to last for a while. After…

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