From Theory to Praxis: Scaffolding the Learning Experience in the Tuned Classroom

AHA Session 145
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Nassau East (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Leah Shopkow, Indiana University
Putting Tuning into Practice
Kenneth Nivison, Southern New Hampshire University
Creating Wonder in the Introductory History Survey: Tuning Rare Books Assignment Design
Susan Cogan, Utah State University; Jennifer Duncan, Utah State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

In 2012 the American Historical Association introduced a new initiative called the Tuning Project. Over sixty historians from across the country gathered in DC that year to begin a process, tuning the discipline of history, that only a few of us had ever heard of. Today the concept has spread to hundreds of campuses and departments and has transformed the way many of us think about our discipline, our purpose as history educators, and our practices in the classroom. Much has been said at conferences and written in SOTL journals about the big Tuning questions: what should students know and be able to do after each level of history education?, how do we make what is implicit in our teaching of history explicit to our students?, how can we brand our discipline for the public and defend the contributions it makes to general education and citizenship?, and should we not focus as much on the historical thinking skills and disciplinary competencies we believe are essential to our field as we do on content and factual knowledge? But, not as much has been written about the practical outcomes of this initiative at the ground level in the classrooms and in student assessment of their own learning. How has the Tuning project really changed the practice of history educators in the classroom? How have they incorporated this AHA initiative into their daily work with students? In this session, history educators and veterans of the Tuning project share with us how they have accomplished this transition from theory to praxis. Kenneth Nivison shares how SNHU redesigned its introductory history education program to replace the traditional US and Western Civ surveys with new specialized courses. Rather than expect entering students to have the skills and knowledge base needed to handle large periods of time across broad geographic regions, they designed courses that introduced the craft of history through specific historical content chosen by the professor. Nivison explains they crafted “an introduction to history course that scaffolds academic skill as a common component across all sections, with the specific historical content, as chosen by the instructor, draped over that framework.” Susan Cogan, a historian, and Jennifer Duncan, a rare books librarian, found that introducing students to rare books and archival objects through careful scaffolding of the experience over the course of the program improved students’ skill in working with archival material. In this session, they “offer examples of successful assignment design that tune the introductory history classroom to three of the core competencies and learning outcomes of the AHA's Tuning projects: building historical knowledge, developing historical methods, and creating historical arguments and narratives.” And John Savagian shares the philosophy of Alverno Collect that self assessment is an essential “learned skill that not only improves over time, but becomes more sophisticated as the student matures academically.” Savagian’s presentation encourages history educators to introduce self-assessment in a way that scaffolds the growth of this skill over the course of the college experience.
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