Friday, January 30, 2015

Syllabus for U.S. History Through the Civil War (Kerry)

If you peruse my syllabus for this semester (included after the jump), you'll see that I am experimenting with a few new techniques, as well as preserving some old standbys.  Last semester I banned student tech devices in the classroom and I liked the results, so I am doing that again, except on History Lab days.  Of course, the History Labs themselves are new, and we'll have several posts later that focus on these.  I kept the policy of assigning a primary source for every class period, which I have been doing for several years.

In the future, I would like to explore a less expensive textbook.  The Roark was inexpensive (at least relatively so) when I started using it, but there have been multiple editions since then, raising used prices, and I would also like a more engaging text.  Suggestions are welcome.

An invitation to join our History Class

For many historians who view this site, the structure we are proposing to undertake for the U.S. History survey may seem familiar.  When we discuss the integration of a problem-based approach that uses primary sources, most historians will think, "I do that already," chalk this project up to old wine in new bottles and prepare to move on.  Please don't.  We hope to make History Class into a collaborative effort that allows us to teach a more rewarding survey--one that facilitates increased independent thinking, encourages greater interest in future historical study, and allows student to avoid the debt they might incur just to purchase a reader that promises to achieve the same results.  (A $50 reader, bought with student loans, financed over 30 years...)  We would like this site to become a collaborative effort that reaches beyond the two of us and out into the community of colleagues we no longer get to speak with about our teaching on a regular basis.  This blog can become a space where we share ideas and sources.  Of course, the conversations might be more fun at Murphy's or [insert your favorite watering-hole or TA office here], but at least on a blog we can hyperlink to the evidence.

Over the next several months, we will use this blog to

  • chronicle and assess our efforts to reinvigorate the U.S. History surveys 
  • explore new models for encouraging student critical thinking about history
  • highlight free, open-access sources for the study of history
  • provide original problem-based assignments (history labs) for use and critique
  • test and elaborate upon primary-source exercises already available online
We invite you to comment freely and add your own suggestions for resources or techniques.  In the future, we hope to invite many of you to participate more actively by sharing with us assignments and exercises you have created over the years.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Welcome to History Class!

This blog is the joint endeavor of Washburn University history professors Kerry Wynn and Kelly Erby. We will be chronicling our efforts here to revamp the U.S. history survey using more primary sources and an active, problem-based approach to learning. Kerry Wynn will teach the first half of the survey, which covers the pre-contact period through the Civil War. Kelly Erby will teach the second half, which picks up with Reconstruction. This is a reversal of our typical teaching areas, since Wynn is a twentieth-century historian while Erby studies the nineteenth century.  It is our intention that stepping outside of our usual comfort zones in what we teach will encourage us to take some risks. We plan to draw on each others' expertise as needed throughout the upcoming Spring 2015 semester.

We hope you enjoy following us and that you will add your own thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the comments.