Teaching Tuning Sequential Methods Courses for History Majors

AHA Session 230
Sunday, January 10, 2016: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Regency Ballroom V (Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Lower Level 1)
Leah Shopkow, Indiana University Bloomington
W. Douglas Catterall, Cameron University
Timothy I. Kelly, Saint Vincent College
Veronica Savory McComb, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Ann Tschetter, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Session Abstract

Tuning Sequential Methods Courses for History Majors

As History Departments across the country face dwindling numbers of undergraduate majors, it has become more urgent – and indeed imperative – to adopt more effective and relevant core curricula and to link the major to career opportunities. The AHA History Tuning Project is a crucial initiative as history programs discuss the objectives of their curricula and assess student learning. The Project’s description of the History Discipline Core (2013) encapsulates ideas about analyzing sources, thinking critically, selecting and applying research methodologies, and constructing a historical argument – all competencies that we generally agree represent a solid foundation for a successful history student. But how do we go about teaching those competencies?

Many departments have a required two- or three-sequence set of courses that ask majors to learn basic professional skills, practice and hone those skills, and then demonstrate their abilities by applying the skills in a capstone course, often by writing a senior research paper. These sequential courses are also a place where majors can learn about various careers and see how the skills they are learning lead into vocations they might pursue, and they are a natural way to connect the major to future employment opportunities. Ongoing assessment of these required courses is an essential tool not only to meet the requirements of outside interests but also to help departments improve and fine-tune them.  Such evaluation presents a particular challenge, though, because courses in the sequence need to be assessed not only individually but also as a unit.

This roundtable session will highlight the ways faculty at a variety of institutions (research I, regional comprehensive, and liberal arts) are evaluating, assessing and improving sequential required history courses in light of the core competencies identified through the History Tuning Project. Through a series of brief presentations and an extended discussion between panelists and the audience, we will explore questions concerning the essential skills to be taught, the assessment of the courses both individually and in relation to each other, and the use of the core courses to enable students to reach specific career goals. It will also discuss the appropriate balance between academic competencies and career goals within this sequence and how we can use these courses not only to strengthen mastery of the major but also to strengthen our majors as overall students.

The roundtable discussion, chaired by Leah Shopkow (Indiana University Bloomington), will feature four brief presentations: “Assessing the Major: From Portfolio to a Common Rubric” (Timothy Kelly, Saint Vincent College), “How to Use Assignments” (W. Douglas Catterall, Cameron University), “Assessing How Historical Skills fit in a Broader Context” (Veronica Savory McComb, Lenoir-Rhyne Univerity), and “Core Courses and Future Employment” (Ann Tschetter, University Nebraska--Lincoln). Using breakout sessions led by the panelists, we expect to generate extensive discussion about the sequential courses required for the major and ways to improve them for a variety of programs, schools, and students.

See more of: AHA Sessions