Teaching Tuning History in General Education Courses

AHA Session 1
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Grand Ballroom D (Hilton Atlanta, Second Floor)
Lendol G. Calder, Augustana College
Lauren Braun-Strumfels, Raritan Valley Community College

Session Abstract

This session considers some of the big questions that the AHA Tuning project has raised about the history major and directs them instead to General Education and entry level courses for non-majors. Whether we teach at the K-12, community college, or four year level, as history educators we face a common question: What is our purpose in history education? What do we want students to gain from the study of history? Much of the work of history departments across the country is not teaching courses for upper level majors but rather teaching entry-level survey courses for non-majors who take history as part of a Gen Ed requirement. Although these entry level courses might help students decide to become majors, it is more often the case that this survey will be the only history course that a student takes.  If the majority of our students will never become history majors and might never take more than the one Gen Ed course required for graduation, what is it that we want them to know and understand at the end of this one introductory course? What do we want every student to gain from the study of history and what are the skills and knowledge of history that we believe it is essential for them to learn? This panel will explore what students expect from their introductory surveys and how we could reenvision these courses in a way that makes these fundamental proficiencies in history the focus. It considers how we might scaffold our programs to better reflect a growth of skills from entry level to the senior capstone, rather than seeing progression toward a major as an accumulation of course credits. The panelists will provide supporting materials from their colleges and engage the audience in a discussion about how we can we transfer what we have learned from tuning the History major to a new effort to tune history for non-majors. Initiating such a conversation at AHA may help us all reconsider how, and even why, we teach entry level history courses. Sarah Shurts will discuss how her community college scaffolded the skills and assessments adapted from the Tuning Project to provide an introduction to history for entry-level non-majors. She will also share her work with surrounding transfer colleges to seamlessly transfer students from gen ed intro courses to upper level history courses by aligning history competencies, rather than content, across the colleges. Andrew Arnold considers how a new General Education program, fewer Education students, and competition from other majors has undermined the history program’s role on campus as well as introductory course enrollments.  His presentation will focus on how the History department has developed interdisciplinary partnerships and a focus on historical skills to respond to this challenge. Dan McInerney will extend the focus of the discussion by suggesting how a re-imagined introductory course can serve as both a valuable resource for student learning as well as a useful tool for faculty and administrators in broader curriculum reform of General Education.

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