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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SOCC it! Primary Source Analysis with my Students

SOCC it! Primary Source Analysis with my Students

If you’re a historian, chances are analyzing a primary source is a reflexive skill – one you’ve deployed countless times in your graduate and professional career.  This is a blessing when it comes to research, but for many of us it’s a stumbling block when it comes to teaching students how to do the same.  Our best attempts to articulate our process often end up overwhelming students with detail.  How does one sum up the myriad of questions we might…

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What Do Our Syllabi Really Say?

What Do Our Syllabi Really Say?

A lot changed for me last week.  Let me give you a concrete example: The syllabus I distributed to students in spring term, 2017, said the following about plagiarism: The Knox College community expects its members to demonstrate a high degree of ethical integrity in all their actions, including their academic work. Examples of academic dishonesty include plagiarism, giving or receiving unauthorized help, voluntarily assisting another student in cheating, and dishonestly obtaining an extension. If you have any questions about…

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Breaking the Ice

Breaking the Ice

Icebreakers are standard practice in many college classrooms, especially on the first day of a new semester. In class after class students tell others a variety of pieces of information about themselves: their name, major, year, or something else – something unique, we often hope. Sometimes we deploy an icebreaker because we want to pair faces with names. Sometimes we genuinely want to disrupt the awkward silence of a first class. At our best moments, we’re looking to start the…

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