1. On his Edwired blog, T. Mills Kelly reports applying Calder’s cognitive habits.

    The PhDinHistory blog warns of a “Coming Crisis in History” if teachers do not adopt new ways of teaching

  2. Lendol,

    Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. I think many of us would find these words most timely. At my own institution we are currently undergoing a major review of our BA and the major offerings therein. All majors will now require an explicit ‘Gateway’ course which will have to do much more than we have done in the past to introduce our students to disicplinary ways of thinking as well as mapping out the journey they are about to embark on in their chosen major. Ive circulated Lendol’s articles and those that David Pace and the Indiana team have been working on which help provide a practical way forward.

    We have a great opportunity at my institution but there remains much suspicion amongst colleagues who are convinced students are bored senseless by such explicit introductions to disicplinary study. Diana Jeater’s article in the newsletter and her reflections are apposite to this discussion and I would certainly welcome the views of others who are further down this process.

    Sean Brawley

  3. Just a note to say how much I enjoyed this essay (and companion piece in JAH). It’s set my mind racing wonderfully in several directions. But, whatever way I go, I’ve got the feeling that I’m going to get lost pretty quickly, and I doubt many folk will want to go ‘there’. So, I’m just going to have a bash at answering one (the first) of Lendol’s questions.

    Lendol asks, “Is it really possible (or desirable) for history professors to adopt a distinctive pedagogy for our discipline on the order of the case dialogue method in law, or clinical rounds in medicine?”

    As Lendol points out (in the JAH essay), there is already a ‘proper and customary way’ of teaching history, notably with regard to introductory survey courses in the USA. This ‘proper and customary way’ is widely recognised, and (it seems) critiqued by many teachers and students. Even so, it clearly draws its legitimacy from a set of broadly shared beliefs and conventional practices concerning the teaching and learning of the subject at undergraduate level. Things like lectures, seminars, working with primary sources, essays and ‘essay’ examinations are the commonest elements, and these are usually regarded as indispensable (witness the ‘History Benchmarking Statement’ for the UK). Things like personal tutorials, fieldwork, problem based learning, group projects, VLEs, and a host of other things are seen as ‘optional extras’; acceptable, and even desirable, for some parts of a history programme, but not essential for effective teaching and learning of the discipline per se. These ‘extras’ are also seen largely as a matter of personal choice and preference, for teachers and students. So, for example, it’s generally believed that while everyone should have to lecture / listen to lectures and set/write essays (and do these things well), nobody should have to teach or learn the skills of, say, applying historical knowledge and skills in ‘real world’ settings, or working in teams on projects, unless they choose to do so. In the UK, as many historians in recent years have developed distinctive ‘features’ of their particular courses/modules, so the disciplinary culture has become more ‘permissive’ with regard to the mix of essential and optional items that can be approved in a History programme. But, of course, the ‘essential’ elements must be preserved.

    So, I’d be surprised if historians don’t think that they already have an agreed and familiar way of talking about and practising history teaching and learning. For many, this is a tried and tested way; one which reflects their own experiences as learners, and one with which they and their peers are generally quite comfortable. There are a few ‘developers’ around (usually looking a bit nervous), but, for the most part, they don’t cause a panic. They’re only a menace when they start to ‘rethink’ things, or want others to do so, which is usually the case when they’ve caught something nasty from mixing with the educationalists. But, for the most part, those that remain within the history community will focus on useful things, such as improving the quality of lecturing and essay-writing, thereby reinforcing the dominant disciplinary paradigm/pedagogy.

    My guess is that, for most historians, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the dominant pedagogy for History is similar to the pedagogies of other disciplines. (Lets’s face it, our footprint is pretty light when it comes to learning about and utilising their pedagogies.) Even if the thinking and practices of other disciplines were more attuned to ‘the findings’ of generic educational research and the views of faculty/staff developers (where these match), I don’t think this would keep historians awake at night. I think we’d get over it, so long as they didn’t try to convert/pervert us. If medics want to do clinical rounds, that’s fine by us, it obviously suits them. ‘Whoever heard of it for History? Don’t be daft, you can’t question the dead… ‘

    What’s probably of more concern is that the pedagogy for History should always be ‘fit for purpose’. This, it seems to me, is what has inspired Lendol to rethink and reshape his survey course so brilliantly (at least in my view). The tremendous attention to the design and delivery of the course– constantly asking what it is that students are and should be learning — certainly wins my vote.

    Even so, the point about fitness for purpose has another side. I’m sure we have to work with a general concept of ‘fitness for purpose’ in thinking about the ways of (improving) teaching and learning in History. (I don’t think we’ve worked hard enough on that count.) But, on every real occasion, this must also involve knowing about our particular students’ needs, abilities, aspirations, and so forth (as well, of course, about our own) in the particular contexts in which they learn. There is no archetypal student. It strikes me that the ‘forms’ of teaching that Lendol uses (and their alignment) within his course are the ones that reveal his pedagogic ‘signature’.

    I really like the six cognitive habits (questioning, connecting, etc.) on which the teaching and learning is focussed, but I don’t think any one of these is distinctive to history as a discipline. (I can imagine that there’s a historian somewhere who might now design a course to ensure that students learn each of the six cognitive habits through an extensive series of lectures and exams! Would that constitute adopting the signature pedagogy of the discipline? I hope not!) The same is also true, I think, for the alternative lists. So, I can’t see that the distinctive/signature pedagogy for history can reside in these forms of thinking (however many thay may be, and however they are categorised).

    I’m quite sure now that I’ve no answer to the question. Sorry. But it does intreague me.

    Finally, it’s great to see the attention given to disciplinary differences in SoTL thinking in the USA. In the UK it seems that most educational researchers and developers are firmly of the view that differences between the pedagogies of the disciplines are due very largely to sociological/cultural factors, and hardly at all epistemological ones, but I hope the tide is turning.

    All best, Paul.

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