Variations of the above quote appear every semester on course evaluations or in sentiments expressed directly to me by students. That I receive such compliments continues to surprise me, as I do not consider myself much of an innovator in the classroom. Indeed, though I use technology to enhance my presentations, I consider myself a throw-back, a “lecturer” who has been labeled as “boring” by some students. In analyzing why lecturing continues to work for me, I have come to several conclusions. First and foremost, my lectures do not necessarily emphasize factual details, but rather a story or connected web of stories. Second, I do not gloss over historical controversies and conflicts, quite the opposite, and I unabashedly state my informed opinion. Third, I try to humanize the past and make it inclusive: I describe historical figures as real people, not monuments on pedestals, and I often emphasize groups or individuals marginalized by traditional narratives. Fourth, I try to engage students’ imaginations, challenging them to think about what they would have done in a given historical situation, how they would have felt, etc. Fifth, I routinely incorporate available classroom technology into my presentations, not just as supplemental material but as an integral part of how I tell a given story. Though my style and methodology may not work for everyone, student and peer feedback has confirmed my effectiveness as a teacher.
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