Kathryn Hain

Kathryn Hain

History/College of Humanities

2012-2013

Lecture-Lite: Exploring Alternative Methods to Teach Humanities

Faculty Mentor: Rai Farrelly - Higher Education Instructional Consultant/CTLE

Faculty Mentor: Donna Ziegenfuss - Associate Librarian/Marriott Library

 

Research proves that lecturing is the least effective teaching method available and is losing ground rapidly in the competition with the net for student attention. This TA Project, an experimental class called Slavery in World History, is designed to demonstrate the application of active learning in a History class context, which traditionally relies on scripted lectures. In addition, woven into the content of the course is a focus on the development of real world skills that will benefit students in their professional and personal lives. The goals of this class are manifold:

1) Students will experience and explore a number of active learning methods that will also effectively utilize content.

2) The methods will help students develop and practice thinking, speaking, writing, and web communication skills in incremental steps.

3) Slavery content is useful for a cross disciplinary approach allowing this course to be potentially cross listed with Classics, Gender, International Relations, and Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern studies by using individual reading and research tracks.

4) This class will be useful to Secondary Education students who plan to teach humanities both from its content on the history of the subaltern and by demonstration of a number of viable teaching methods for their disciplines.

5) Slavery is so ubiquitous across time and geography that it provides ideal content for a history class that uses the pedagogy of world history to discover themes rather than just taking a world tour through time.  

Since 90% of history majors become teachers, their experience and practice using new teaching methods should show up in their classrooms for decades to come.

 

Reaching the five goals of this class and jettisoning the lecture as a teaching method requires a bit of rethinking and restructuring.   These are the proposed plans but the class is designed with a bit of space to recalibrate as necessary as the class proceeds through the content area.

1) Students will experience and explore a number of active learning methods that will also effectively utilize content.

This first goal determines that not only does the teacher have to prepare content and reading for each theme, but they must also choose a learning method with which to address the theme.   Some of these learning methods are in pedagogy books; others are created especially for this class. Using an online format for tests, and experience with flipped and hybrid formats extends the learning experience also.

2) The methods will help students develop and practice thinking, speaking, writing, and web communication skills in incremental steps.

The end goal is that students will be prepared to produce a professional paper and present it in a panel format with questions to follow. They will then further their speaking ability by presenting a lesson using more creative, interactive methods of their choice. Their web presence will be enhanced with a book review posted to amazon.com and with their teaching and/or panel presentation posted to YouTube.   The classes leading up to these assignments will provide practice and preparation in incremental steps. Post class professional development is encouraged by extra credit for publishing or conference presentations in the history department or at the PTA student conference.

3) Slavery content is useful for a cross disciplinary approach allowing this course to be potentially cross listed with Classics, Gender, International Relations, and Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern studies by using individual reading and research tracks.

Other than the theme of abolition which is a very modern concept, the ubiquity of slavery across cultures and time allows specialization for those students who are focusing on one era, one region, or one issue such as gender or international relations.   To allow that interdisciplinary approach, class readings are spread across this spectrum of cultures.  Students can choose from suggested articles or chapters delineating a certain theme or have the freedom to find their own readings (with approval) to highlight that theme in their region/era. Class discussion, activities, or in class writings then center on how that theme has commonalities across the years and miles or how it plays out differently.

4) This class will be useful to Secondary Education students who plan to teach humanities both from its content on the history of the subaltern and by demonstration of a number of viable teaching methods for their disciplines.

Although public speaking and creative teaching methods are useful to anyone’s career, this class will be especially useful for those who are planning a career in teaching high school, community college, or university because it will demonstrate a number of teaching methods. The capstone project is the student will teach a section of the theme as an ‘area expert’ using an interactive, learner centered teaching method that they have either learned in class or have created themselves. This also enhances the University of Utah’s current emphasis on creativity.

5) Slavery is so ubiquitous across time and geography that it provides ideal content for a history class that uses the pedagogy of world history to discover themes rather than just taking a world tour through time.  

World history is a challenge to teach for two reasons. It is difficult to find a teacher who ‘knows everything about everywhere’.   It is also difficult to find a way to teach world history that is not just a ‘world tour’ going from culture to culture. This class based on themes of slavery makes those difficulties a source of strength. The need “to know everything” is spread among the students. The class becomes a learning community with each student an expert in one aspect of the topic that they then teach the rest of the community. Also, using themes across time and place builds on the ideal of world history pedagogy in finding patterns, commonalities, and differences. It is students and teacher as a learning community where no one person can be the expert in everything that makes world history the ideal vehicle to help students develop ownership of their learning and make important contributions of information developing their presentation skills.

The best assessment of this class will be if the students, who pass through it and become teachers, adopt a number of methods that they were able to ‘try out’ in the safe place of this learning community.   If any of them go on to be graduate students, they will enrich whatever department they enter with these innovative ways of teaching humanities. Also, graduates of this class will have more confidence in their writing and speaking as well as a polished web presence which will increase their employability and further graduate studies. Formal assessment will be based on the writing and speaking/teaching projects done by the students as well as content tests.

 

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