Teaching Tuning at the Two-Year Institution: Teaching and Learning on the Front Lines of History Education

AHA Session 67
Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Ballroom A (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Concourse Level)
Mark J. Smith, Valencia College
Tony Acevedo, Hudson County Community College
Elizabeth Bryant, McNeese State University
Heather M. Bryson, Valencia College
Michele Rotunda, Union County College
Sarah Elizabeth Shurts, Bergen Community College

Session Abstract

Tuning at the Two-Year Institution:  Teaching and Learning on the Front Lines of History Education

            As noted in a 2012 report by the AHA, “two-year institutions are on the front lines of many debates concerning higher education.”  In this roundtable panelists raise questions about the day-to-day teaching concerns of two-year faculty.  Audience members will then offer responses and propose suggestions based on their own experiences. 

            Sarah Shurts will discuss ways in which history educators can make changes, even small ones, to their teaching methods and their material in order to better address the historical thinking skills, concepts, and competencies that are essential to our discipline instead of simply covering content. She will show how her community college courses and expectations for student learning are evolving due to the introduction of the Tuning process.  In particular, she will discuss how the student learning objectives in the Tuning core can be scaled to suit the particular needs of community college introductory surveys while still introducing and developing the historical thinking skills and research methods that are essential to the major. 

            Too often the impulse at two-year colleges is to load students with content before they can eventually engage in disciplinary thinking at a four-year institution or in graduate school.  This impulse can be especially pronounced when dealing with community college students who have varying degrees of knowledge and academic skills.  Tony Acevedo and Michele Rotunda, however, will suggest that content coverage should not trump developing the habits of mind associated with the discipline.  Analyzing evidence, engaging in debate, and answering essential questions – all part of the historian’s craft – are examples of disciplinary habits that can be implemented to strengthen the survey course.  In particular, they will discuss how community college students often bring experiences and real-world skills that can be tapped into to develop historical thinking. 

            Although it has been three decades since Joan Wallach Scott called for the inclusion of gender as a category of analysis in historical study, Heather Bryson argues that it remains largely absent from survey courses in community colleges.  Gender is not the only underused analytical lens in introductory history classes. In general, historiography and historical theory are not taught at the community college level.  Bryson will provide a case study for the integration of theory (gender, class, race, etc.) into surveys based on how she introduces and embeds gender theory into her modern United States history course.           

            In a case study, Elizabeth Bryant will voice the specific challenges that community college educators face when teaching about human rights issues, especially in an era where much of the curriculum is dictated by set educational standards.  Another issue she will discuss is how students are often ill-prepared, both educationally and emotionally, to digest such difficult material.  Finally, she will offer suggestions on how educators can offer more practical tools so that students can become involved and stop the cycle of apathy to promote tolerance and understanding within both the local and global contexts.

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