Newsletter – Fall 2008

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This newsletter exists to promote scholarly approaches to the teaching and learning of history throughout the world. The editor welcomes contributions that report recent happenings, note current trends, and identify emerging issues. Direct inquiries and submissions to the editor.  Not a member of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History?  Join the society to be placed on the mailing list.

Special thanks to Keith Erekson, Andrew M. Koke, and Geoff Timmins for their work on this newsletter, and to the contributors: David Pace, Kama Maclean, Gabriel A. Reich, and Geoff Timmins.



“Debates about the ‘Rise of the West’: An Exercise in Analysis”
Kama Maclean, School of History, University of New South Wales

“Achievement in History: Some Issues in Assessment”
Gabriel A. Reich, Virginia Commonwealth University


International Learning and Teaching Conference for Higher Education Historians, Oxford, UK , 1-3 April, 2009. Bursaries are available for speakers.

The Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning will occur in Bloomington, Indiana, October 22-25, 2008 (website coming soon).

Research project into numeracy and undergraduate history teaching. Your help is needed!

The Journal of Employability and the Humanities. Your contributions are sought!

Just one damn thing after another? Progression in higher education history teaching. Introduction to a project website concerning curriculum development.

Indiana University History Department Receives Grant from the Teagle and Spencer Foundations for a Study of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History.

Report on the meetings of the Steering Committee of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History, Edmonton Canada, October 2008.

The Opper Project website house valuable lesson plans, primary sources, and worksheets to aid in the use of political cartoons in the classroom.


Contributions to this newsletter that report any matters in this field are welcome, including:

  • Reports on recent conferences and workshops
  • Notes about current trends or emerging issues
  • Comments about recently published works of scholarship
  • Announcements of future conferences or workshops
  • Short accounts of current research projects
  • Reports of curriculum development and approaches to teaching
  • Profiles of individuals and departments

Please e-mail the newsletter editors with any contribution.  Know someone who would be interested in this newsletter?  Encourage them to sign up!

Also, check out our conferences page; there is a lot going on for HistSOTL in 2009!


Debates about the ‘Rise of the West’: An Exercise in Analysis
By Kama Maclean, School of History, University of New South Wales

The following pages suggest an analysis exercise which encourages students to recognise the presence of debates within world history, particularly in regard to the ‘rise of the west’, one of the hottest topics of debate in world history research. It is drafted here initially as an assessable exercise, with suggestions on how it can be applied as a classroom lesson (using jigsaw groups or a debate). The basic template is adaptable to suit a range of levels of education, from high school to graduate study, as demonstrated in the notes on implementation.

Patrick Manning has identified a number of key debates in world history which demand the attention of world historians, the first being on the nature of the world economy from 1500, and in particular why it is that Western Europe gained the upper hand in the global system of production, from which other forms of dominance followed (Manning, 2003, 374). The various, at times heated, debates on ‘the Rise of the West’ have been the focus of modern world history  research in recent years. It behoves students of world history to be aware of these debates, and not simply for their salience in understanding today’s world. In particular, this exercise will emphasise:

  1. That there is genuine debate and disagreement between scholars, and that this is an important part of the production of world history
  2. That the same evidence can be interpreted differently
  3. That there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in these debates per se (but some arguments are better supported by evidence/interpreted than others)
  4. That there are academic biases that favour Europe in interpreting history
  5. That people from various disciplines (geographers, scientists, demographers, economists and so on) may offer useful perspectives for historians to draw upon

1. Choose ONE of the below debates.
2. Read the articles prescribed for your debate; they are included in the course reader.
3. Write an essay-style response, in 1500 words, to the below questions:

  • What is the argument of your chosen theory regarding the ‘Rise of the West’?
  • What is the counter-argument/criticism made of the theory?
  • What is the evidence given by each author to support their argument?
  • Whose argument do you find more convincing, and why?

You will find it useful to look at chapters (in Jared Diamond or David Landes, for example) prescribed below, or to consider an author’s other works which may be related to the debate in question (James Blaut, for example). You will find that useful in situating the chapters that are given below. Bear in mind that this is primarily an exercise in analysis, not in research. Some good overviews of the debates of the rise of the West can be found in the below articles. They are highly recommended (and included in your course reader):

  • Gale Stokes, ‘The Fates of Human Societies: A Review of Recent Macrohistories’, American Historical Review, 106/2 (April 2001), pp. 506-525.
  • David D. Buck, ‘Was it Pluck or Luck that Made the West grow Rich?’, Journal of World History, 10, 2, 1999, pp.413-30.
  • Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World: a Global and Ecological Narrative, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, introduction.

Debate 1: The Role of the Environment in the Rise of the West

  • Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years, Vintage, 1998, pp. 405-425.
  • J.R. McNeill, ‘The World According to Jared Diamond,’ The History Teacher, February 2001.
  • Interview with Jared Diamond, April 17, 1998, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Transcript, available here.
  • ‘A Conversation with Jared Diamond by Tom Laichas’, in World History Connected, Vol 2, No. 2, May 2005.

Debate 2: ‘Exceptional Europeans’ and the Rise of the West

  • David Landes, ‘The Invention of Invention’, in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Nations are So Rich and Some So Poor, London: Little, Brown and Co., 1998, pp. 45-60.
  • J. M. Blaut, ‘David Landes: the Empire Strikes Back’, in The Colonisers’ Model of the World: Eight Eurocentric Historians, New York/London: Guildford Press, 2000, pp.174-203.
  • Joseph Lucas, ‘The West in Perspective: An Interview with David Landes’, Journal of the Historical Society, 4/2 (Spring, 2004), pp.167-188.

Debate 3: The ‘Great Divergence’ and the Rise of the West

  • Kenneth Pomeranz, ‘Two Worlds of Trade, Two Worlds of Empire: European State-Making and Industrialisation in a Chinese Mirror’, in David A. Smith, Dorothy J. Solinger, and Steven Topik (eds), States and Sovereignty in the Global Economy, London: Routledge, 1999, pp. 74-98.
  • P. H. H. Vries, ‘Are coal and colonies really crucial? Kenneth Pomeranz and the great divergence’, Journal of World History, Fall 2001. 12, 2; 40 pgs.
  • Ricardo Duchesne, ‘Peer Vries, the Great Divergence, and the California School: Who’s In and Who’s Out?’ available here.

There are a number of ways in which this basic exercise can be applied. I first used a modified version of this assignment for first-year students (freshmen) enrolled in a ‘World History from 1500’ course, in which the Rise of the West was one of two key themes. Students were required to choose one of the three debates, and to analyse it in approximately 1500 words. The assignment was worth 20% of their total mark. I found that this assignment worked well: it requires students to analyse the articles presented, and because there is no research component, they can focus simply on the debates. Above all, it makes them aware that there are arguments and differences of opinion out there.
Instructors will find that this assignment works best when there has been some background on the debates given in classes or lectures (especially if students are required to read the three recommended background readings listed above). Most modern world history curricula feature lessons relating to the rise of the west (some, exclusively), so this lesson module would find relevance in most course offerings.

The following would be of use for instructors framing their own ideas about the debate, but also could be given to students as further reading.

  • Patrick Manning, ‘Debating World History’, in Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past, Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003, pp. 255-64.
  • John A. Hall, ‘Confessions of a Eurocentric’, International Sociology, 16, 3, September 2001, pp. 488-49-97.

Debate 1:
Patrick Manning review’s Diamond’s argument concisely in a posting on H-World, dated May 16, 2000 (entitled ‘J. Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel’). See also William H. McNeill, ‘History Upside Down’, New York Review of Books , Volume 44, Number 8, May 15, 1997, and Jared Diamond’s response to McNeill’s critique in his letter, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, New York Review of Books, Volume 44, Number 11, June 26, 1997. (available online here along with McNeill’s counter-response). See also J. M. Blaut’s chapter on Guns, Germs and Steel , in Eight Eurocentric Historians, New York/London: Guildford Press, 2000.

Debate 2:
Review by Alfred Crosby, of David Landes’ The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and Some so Poor, posted on H-World, March 28, 1998 (retrievable by searching H-World archives, the subject heading is “Landes, reviewed by Alfred Crosby”). H-World discussion logs are available here.

Debate 3:
An extension of Debate 3 (which is quite lengthy – more suitable for advanced students – but a fascinating example of world history in action), is Philip Huang ’s ‘Development or Involution in Eighteenth-Century Britain and China? A Review of Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence’, and Pomeranz’s response, ‘Beyond the East-West Binary: Resituating Development Paths in the Eighteenth-Century World’, in Journal of Asian Studies, 61 (2), 2002. They also respond to each other’s criticisms in the ‘Correspondence to the Editor’ section of the Journal of Asian Studies, 62, 1, 2003. There is also a good essay on this debate by R. Bin Wong, available on the Journal of Asian Studies website.

When I assessed this exercise, I looked for convincing arguments, and an ability to assess the evidence of each writer under review, preferably by placing their chapter in some context (for example, students should be aware that Blaut’s chapter is part of a larger enterprise, and they ideally should be aware of his first volume, the Coloniser’s Model of the World [New York, 1993]). I expect university-level students to look into the background of the authors to help situate their perspective on world history. The best responses that I had were from students that were able to find some balance between the two authors, and to be able to justify their findings well. For example, I did not find a student’s wholesale acceptance of the counter-theory of any of the debates very satisfying; they should, at least, recognise the unequal nature of some of the articles presented (by this, I mean that Blaut’s one-chapter critique of Landes is levelled at his entire book, Wealth and Poverty of Nations, yet I have required students to read only one chapter of that book, making it hard to compare evenly). Good responses will note this, and may even read beyond the chapter given in the exercise (the introduction and conclusion of the book would be a good place to start; I wouldn’t require it, but it would certainly distinguish the student who did this). It was as a result of student feedback that I included the interviews of Jared Diamond and David Landes (which were not included the last time I set the assignment) to give a sense of ‘right of reply’, as in both interviews the writers address their critics and re-state, very clearly, their theses.

I also assessed the paper according to the criteria that I gave students in the instructions, and returned the below feedback sheet to them. They appreciate being able to see where their papers fall in the distribution of grades.

After I assessed the assignments, I chose the strongest paper from each of the debates, and, with the author’s permission, circulated it to the students as an example of a strong assignment. This was especially popular with students who recognised it as a valuable form of feedback (I removed the authors’ names beforehand, and commented briefly on why it got a high grade). If instructors have concerns about this fuelling plagiarism in future years, based on the circulation of the ‘model answers’, then they could offer only one debate to a class per year on a rotating basis. I made it clear that the ‘model answer’ was not the ‘right answer’, but one which I thought was well-argued.

Assessment will include:

  • Comprehension of the arguments for and against the theory
  • Analysis of the arguments and the evidence
  • Well-reasoned conclusions on whose argument is more convincing
  • Awareness and maintenance of the conventions of writing an essay

This module can be used ‘as is’ for an assignment for undergraduate university study, or it can be modified to suit other education levels. For example, it works particularly well in seminars as a reading and debating exercise using ‘jigsaw groups’ (see below).

Variation for High School Students
High school instructors may select one of the debates and focus on it exclusively, perhaps setting up a debate in the classroom (debate 3 is arguably the most complex, the other two may be more accessible to high school students). Jared Diamond’s theories in particular are topical again, after the 2005 release of his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Additional resources for the high school classroom studying Debate 1 would include an interview with Jared Diamond conducted in 2000, in which he talks about Guns, Germs and Steel, downloadable at The National Academies Website. This may be a better classroom resource than the Jim Lehrer interview, as it offers an audio element to the exercise. Better still would be to get some video of an interview (there would presumably be one of the Jim Lehrer interview, conducted by Elizabeth Farnsworth).

Variation for Graduate Students
For graduate or advanced classes, instructors may introduce selections from the logs of H-World Discussion as a further element to the debate. The H-World logs are searchable, and by searching for key terms related to each of the debates in the subject-line of postings, instructors and/or students will find a range of opinion relating their topic. For example, there is a series of postings related to the work of David Landes (dated May 21-22, 1998) and Jared Diamond (various dates), authored by recognised names in world history. This includes authors already included in the above debates, such as James Blaut, but it also includes some divergent opinions and gives students a sense of the way in which the academic community receives and reviews ground-breaking scholarship.  Search H-World discussion logs here.

Translating the exercise to the classroom
Alternatively, instructors may adapt the exercise to the below lesson plan. This variation is easier because it relies upon students first reading through the debate, then discussing it with their peers, rather than coming to a reasoned conclusion in isolation, as with a written assignment. As such, it suits high school level, but could equally be used in the university classroom. The jigsaw group is not assessed, therefore this removes some of the pressure that students may feel to ‘get it right’.

Instructions for Jigsaw Groups
Time required: preferably, between 1.5 and 2 hours.
Resources: the readings suggested above, including background readings (I have them photocopied, bound and sold, observing copyright, by the university bookshop as part of a required ‘study kit’).
Planning: Plan at least a week ahead. Divide the seminar (say, about 25 students) into 3 groups and assign them a debate each. Instruct them to read through the arguments and prepare notes for the next week’s class.

Session 1
On the day of the class, form the 3 groups in circles (there will be about 8 students in each group; ideally the groups should have the same number of students) and give them 20 minutes to discuss the main points of the debate (using the same criteria, namely, what was the argument, counter-argument, evidence presented and whose theory does the group, on balance find more convincing, and why?). It would be useful if the instructor has, in the classroom, copies of the relevant books (not just the articles from which they are drawn). This will make the point that the different arguments should be situated within context (this need not be complex; the context of Blaut’s chapter would be that it is part of a comprehensive, two-volume critique of Eurocentric history).
Students should draw upon their notes, and they may wish to draft fresh ones based on the synthesis of information that they come up with in this first session. The point of this first session is for the students to compare their interpretations of the reading, and thus build upon their understanding. Stop for a break at the end of this session if time permits.

Session 2
Re-organise the class into groups of three: there must be one student representing each ‘debate’ in each group (and there will be, say, 8 groups of 3). In the next 30 minutes, each member of the group will explain to the other three members the debate that they studied, using their own notes and any insights that they gained in the first group activity. Each student gets 10 minutes to do this; this should include questions from the other two members, and answers. It is a particularly useful exercise because it offers students the opportunity to work in small groups cooperatively, sharing insights. It is a very useful way of engaging students who are normally quiet.
Instructors are free in this time to move about the groups, giving any feedback where necessary, but this should largely be a student-centred learning opportunity; instructors should facilitate, rather than dominate, any discussion. (Weimer, 2002). This method of instruction is also valuable because it takes the authority away from the instructor. It also places emphasis on the fact that debates such as these in world history are powerfully shaped by particular disciplines and viewpoints. World history in general is particularly well suited to student-centred learning because many instructors who find themselves teaching it are doing so outside their own area of training. While this strikes many as a daunting enterprise, by taking a student-centred approach to learning, and declaring one’s ‘out-of-depthness’ , students are empowered to direct their own learning. This is a method advocated by world historian Peter Stearns, as an approach which attempts ‘to develop active student participation and to reduce or eliminate any special teacher authority’(Stearns, 1996, 98).

Session 3
Finally, the seminar can be concluded with the instructor asking for contributions and feedback from students. Ask them what conclusions they have drawn, having understood the various perspectives presented to them. This would lead to a broader concluding discussion of the issues.

It seems that scholarly opinion in world history is coming to the consensus that there is no single factor that explains the ascendancy of the West in the modern world.(Doumanis,2005, 118)  Patrick Manning suggests that ‘the debate is not only about the answers but about which question is most useful for developing an interpretation’.(Manning, 203, 374)


  • Patrick Manning, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past, Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003.
  • M. Weimer, Learner Centred Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, San Francisco, Jossey Bass, 2002.
  • Peter N. Stearns, ‘Teaching and Learning in Lectures’, in Alan Booth and Paul Hyland (eds), History in Higher Education,  Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
  • Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, & Sam Wineburg, Knowing, Teaching & Learning History: National and International Perspectives, New York University Press, 2000.
  • Nicholas Doumanis, ‘History Writ Large: Review Article’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 51, 1, 2005.

Achievement in History: Some Issues in Assessment
By Gabriel A. Reich, Virginia Commonwealth University

There has been much talk in recent years about defining a signature pedagogy in history. In Lendol Calder’s essay on signature pedagogy, he wrote that “by using a generic pedagogy, we run the risk that students who emerge from the one college history course they complete might possibly be impressed by the teacher but almost certainly oblivious to the discipline.” Assessment has an important role to play in the effort to remake the way history is taught and learned. Today, it is highly likely that students’ encounters with assessment of their achievement in the discipline will be dominated by multiple-choice (MC) tests. This is unfortunate, because the MC format is poorly suited to courses that value historical inquiry and may help to reinforce naïve epistemologies of the discipline.

F. Allan Hanson (2000), an anthropologist who studies the effect of testing on culture, describes tests as “representational devices” (p. 68) in which the “test result is the signifier and the target information is the signified”. Hanson warns that “because signifiers and signifieds are not the same thing, testing inevitably involves a gap between the immediate results and the target information that the test is intended to provide” (p. 68). Despite the growing power of tests to affect high stakes decisions about test-takers lives, the gap between the scores of MC tests and what they mean is seldom submitted to rigorous analysis. This is particularly true in the case of the history multiple-choice (MC) tests that are ubiquitous in K-12 education.

The issues raised by large-scale standardized testing in history are, at heart, philosophical. Standardized testing emerges from an effort in the first quarter of the 20th century by psychologists to establish their discipline in the natural sciences. Key to this effort was the construction of a research method deemed sufficiently “objective” to yield data that could be used to build context-free generalizable theories. The concern among these psychologists was to minimalize the subjective beliefs of the person scoring the test. They were less concerned, however, with the ways in which subjective beliefs would affect the construction of the questions themselves. Since that time the technology has developed and improvements have been made in the construction of test items and the statistical procedures used to vet these items for fairness, reliability and validity. Unfortunately, the process by which MC items on commercially available standardized tests are vetted does not include the consideration of data about how students actually go about answering the items.

This state of affairs demands a deceptively simple question: what do MC history tests measure? There is to date, not enough evidence to give a very detailed answer to this question. In a study that I conducted with a group of 13 high-school students preparing for New York’s Global History and Geography Regents exam, I found that what divided students who were successful from those who weren’t was neither an understanding of history as a discipline, nor was it an ability to think historically; nor, in fact, was it an ability to memorize and regurgitate facts. Successful test-takers appeared to understand better the nature of the task at hand: matching information in questions to answer choices. Because history is an interpretive discipline that is expressed in narrative accounts of the past, much of this matching can be characterized as the recognition of the relevant consensus narrative in the question and answer choices. Successful test-takers appear to tacitly assume that history MC items contain a narrative and that selecting the correct answer is largely a matter of finding the choice that most neatly fits with the normative narrative framework. Factual knowledge plays an important role in this process, in that it can help to eliminate answer choices that work logically but are either erroneous or diverge from the accepted interpretation. The danger is that students are being institutionalized into the discipline with a positivist and naïve understanding of historical inquiry as leading to unambiguous factual accounts of the past.

If one is to apply the priorities of testing experts to the assessment of history, it is very difficult to construct a form of assessment that will satisfy the concerns of psychometricians for reliability. I believe that as a humanities-based discipline, there simply is too much ambiguity to make “objective” tests very useful. At heart, assessment questions are about getting a sense that your students are engaging with the material, pushing their thinking, growing in their ability to apply disciplined thinking to complex historical questions. The traditional, and one might say signature, format for this in history has been the research paper and historical essay. To be useful, assessments should require students to engage in a problem solving activity in which they apply discipline-based thinking. This kind of assessment is more than a snapshot of what a student knows, but is an opportunity for the student to gain insight. This does not mean that testing students’ knowledge of relevant terms and chronologies is not important. However, a signature pedagogy that engages students in historical inquiry demands assessments that prioritize the value of inquiry.

The issues of testing, long the prerogative of measurement experts and polemicists, has a real impact on the education of our nation’s young. Students leave high school with naïve understandings of history intact, in part because this is the message they received from the testing that they have been relentlessly subjected to. Thus, assessment is key to the improvement of the historical understanding of our students. Currently the state of the art in testing makes large scale assessments that honor historical inquiry very difficult and expensive to develop. In order to move forward, we will need an honest dialogue between historians and psychometricians. The challenge, I believe, will be greater for the psychometricians who will need to rethink their theories of learning and achievement in order to better accommodate disciplinary concerns.


  • Calder, Lendol. “Toward a Signature Pedagogy for History Education.” History SoTL Newsletter 1.2 (2007): 1/8/2007.
  • Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 1981.
  • Hanson, F. Allan. “How Tests Create what they are Intended to Measure.” Assessment: Social Practice and Social Product. Ed. Ann Filer. 1st ed. London, UK: RoutledgeFalmer, 2000. 67-81.
  • Holt, Tom. Thinking Historically: Narrative, Imagination, and Understanding. Ed. Dennie P. Wolf and Robert Orril. 1st ed. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1990.
  • Lipman, Pauline. High Stakes Education: Inequality, Globalization, and Urban School Reform. 1st ed. New York, London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004.
  • McArthur, Edith K. “State Educational Reforms: Table 1.11. State high school exit exams, by exam characteristics and state: 2005–06.” National Center for Educational Statistics. 2007.
  • Reed, James. “Robert M. Yerkes and the Mental Testing Movement.” Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890-1930. Ed. Michael M. Sokal. 1st ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 205.
  • Reich, Gabriel A. Measuring Achievement in History: Multiple-Choice, High-Stakes & Unsure Outcomes. PhD New York University, 2007.
  • Rothstein, Richard. “We are Not Ready to Assess History Performance.” The Journal of American History 90.4 (2004).
  • Samelson, Franz. “Was Early Mental Testing (a) Racist Inspired, (b) Objective Science, (c) A Technology for Democracy, (d) the Origin of Multiple-Choice Exams, (e) None of the Above? (Mark the Right Answer).” Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890-1930. Ed. Michael M. Sokal. 1st ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 113-127.
  • Shepard, Lorrie A. “Psychometricians’ Beliefs about Learning.” Educational Researcher 20.7 (1991): 2-16.
  • Wiggins, Grant P. Assessing Student Performance: Exploring the Purpose and Limits of Testing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.
  • Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. 1st ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998.
  • Wineburg, Sam. “Crazy for History.” The Journal of American History 12.29 (2004): 32 pars.


Eleventh Annual Learning and Teaching in History Conference, 1-3 April 2009, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology).
1-3 April 2009, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology).The aim of the conference is to provide a national and international forum for the development of History learning and teaching in higher education. There will be keynote speakers, plenary sessions, seminars and workshops on all aspects of practice: from discussions on current developments, reviews of research and innovation, and examinations of issues of strategic importance. We are particularly keen to consider papers or sessions which give voice to the student experience and graduate teachers but papers on any aspects of learning and teaching will be welcome. Please send a short abstract giving details of the paper and speaker(s) to the Subject Director for History, Dr Sarah Richardson. The closing date for abstracts is 31st January 2009. Travel and accommodation bursaries are available for speakers. Please contact Sarah Richardson for more details.

Every student counts: promoting numeracy and enhancing employability
This research project, which is based at the University of Central Lancashire, is concerned with teaching numerical skills within undergraduate programmes. Three subjects – history, biomedical science (including nursing) and business studies – provide the focus for investigation.
For the history strand of the project, views on developing undergraduate numeracy skills are being sought from current and former students, faculty and employers. Preliminary findings include the following:

  • Responses obtained from over half of the UK’s history departments indicate a strongly held view that the programmes they offer should do more to improve students’ numerical skills.
  • As testing reveals, history undergraduates tend to be over confident about their numerical abilities.
  • Whilst around half the UK undergraduate history students surveyed do not think that developing numeracy skills will enhance their historical learning, about four fifths think that developing these skills is important with regard to their future employment.

The project team are extending their research beyond the UK and would welcome any help you can give. In particular, they would appreciate responses to a short questionnaire about developing numeracy in undergraduate history courses and details of any teaching approaches involving numeracy that you use.
The historians involved in the project are:
Professor Roger Lloyd-Jones (Sheffield Hallam University)
Professor Dave Nicholls (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Professor Geoff Timmins (University of Central Lancashire)

The Journal of Employability and the Humanities is a bi-annual, refereed journal produced in collaboration with the Centre for Employability Through the Humanities (ceth) at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.  It aims to foster dialogue between teaching humanities subjects and enhancing students’ employability. The editors welcome contributions about your experiences of teaching, developing and researching employability in this area, particularly in the form of short articles and case studies. Contributions from both undergraduate and postgraduate students are also sought.
For further details and contacts, please see the Journal website.

Just one damn thing after another? Progression in higher education history teaching.
This web site presents and discusses the findings arising from an NTF-funded research project into how degree-level history programmes are made more demanding for students as they progress from one level to the next. The project builds on earlier research into this issue, the results of which are outlined in Section 3, and are presented fully in Geoffrey Timmins, Keith Vernon and Christine Kinealy, Teaching and Learning History (Sage, 2005).
The research has been extended in two main ways. Firstly, further surveying of undergraduate history courses has been undertaken, both with regard to determining general patterns of provision and examining particular examples of practice. As a result, a fuller picture has been obtained of how progression is being achieved in these courses, both in Britain and overseas, and of the under-pinning rationale. Secondly, consideration is given to how progression is being promoted at undergraduate level in other subject areas, with a view to identifying practices and ideas that might be useful in helping to design history courses.
The hope is that the website will act as a point of reference for anyone interested in progression matters, whatever their subject discipline and degree of teaching experience. In fulfilling this function, the site will become more valuable as an aid to curriculum development if contributions are made to it, both in relation to offering examples of how progression is being achieved in key curricular areas and to discussion of the concept of progression in general. The web site, which will be updated periodically as new material becomes available, is now under construction and can be viewed here.
To contribute, please contact Geoff Timmins. We look forward to hearing from you!

Indiana University History Learning Foundation receives grant from the Teagle and Spencer Foundations for a Study of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History. The Indiana University History Learning Project has received an $80,000 grant as part of the Spencer and Teagle Foundations’ initiative for Systematic Improvement of Undergraduate Education in Research Universities, in addition to $243,000 in matching funds from the university’s Dean of Faculties Office.  This grant will be used to fund the HLP’s on-going efforts to define the kinds of operations required for success in college history courses and to devise effective means to model these skills for students.  The project has videotaped interviews with twenty-one history faculty, distributed questionnaires to several thousand students, and begun testing strategies for modeling specific skills in undergraduate history classes.  Reports on the work of the HLP will appear in future issues of this newsletter.
More material about the project may be seen here.

Minutes of Steering Committee of the Internal Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History
The Steering Committee of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History met at the meetings of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Edmonton Canada October 17-18.  Plans were made for the organization to have a presence at the Conference on History in Higher Education at Oxford University in April 2009 and at the ISSOTL meetings in Bloomington, Indiana in October.  We wish to set aside an afternoon for historians at the ISSOTL meeting and to request that the organizers of the conference avoid scheduling sessions by historians in the same time slots.  It was hoped that these two conferences would serve as the occasion for biannual meetings of the steering committee.
We also decided that it was time to expand the reach of the organization by inviting two new members to join the Steering Committee and by inviting correspondents to write short pieces on developments in nations that are not yet represented.  Sarah Richardson of the University of Warwick and Arlene Diaz from Indiana University were asked to join the committee and have since accepted.  We are also seeking correspondents from South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and East Europe.
Present: Alan Booth, Sean Brawley, Arlene Diaz, Keith Erekson, Geoff Timmins, Leah Shopkow

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