Be the Historian You Want to See in the World: Building a Historian Persona

Friday, January 5, 2018: 2:00 PM
Washington Room 3 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Flannery Burke, Saint Louis University
For students to “do” history they must come to see themselves as historians and the skills of the historian as ones that they can carry outside the classroom. My presentation will share exercises from three different courses – an introductory U.S. survey class, a method’s class for undergraduate History majors, and an upper-division topics class in the history of the American West. Each is designed to help students begin to see themselves as historians. The first exercise, called Choose Your Own Adventure, provides an introductory class two syllabi, each with a historical question organizing the material. By campaigning for each syllabus and ultimately voting for the syllabus that the class will follow, students familiarize themselves with the readings, the assignments, one another, and, most significantly, the idea that history is question-driven and that questions will drive their own encounters with history in the future. The second exercise, called Shelfies, sends History majors and minors to the library to photograph those shelves of the library that represent their historical interests. The exercise requires students to familiarize themselves with the Library of Congress system, reflect on what their historical interests are, and, most importantly, actually enter the library. The title of the exercise also invites students to begin to identify with their intellectual interests and take responsibility for where those interests might lead. The final exercise asks students to revisit a seemingly small event in the past – an altercation at a baseball game at Laguna Pueblo in 1920 – and question whether the event was for the common good. The exercise follows the model of deliberative decision making in civics education, and requires that students show the relevance of history to civic participation. These exercises encourage students to see themselves as historians with the skills to “do” their own historical work.