History SoTL Projects

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This page serves as an access point where examples of research into the scholarship of teaching and learning in history can be displayed. Feel free to discuss the projects.

Center for History and New Media
Contributed by Mills Kelly, George Mason University

Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University (CHNM) has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. CHNM combines cutting edge digital media with the latest and best historical scholarship to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past as well as a broad historical literacy. CHNM’s work has been recognized with major awards and grants from the American Historical Association, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education, the Library of Congress, Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Sloan, Hewlett, Rockefeller, Gould, Delmas, Mellon, and Kellogg foundations.

CHNM maintains a wide range of online history projects, including World History Matters, which helps teachers and their students locate, analyze, and learn from online primary sources; Echo: Exploring and Collecting History Online, which collects, organizes, and preserves digital materials in the history of science, technology, and industry; Interpreting the Declaration of Independence, which uses foreign translations to promote a richer understanding of the Declaration; History News Network, a web-based magazine that places current events in historical perspective; and six Teaching American History projects in collaboration with Virginia and Maryland public school districts. Many of CHNM’s projects have been undertaken in collaboration with the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. Among these collaborations are the September 11 Digital Archive, a digital repository of histories and documents of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania; Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, an introduction to the French Revolution through documents and images; History Matters, a resource center and portal for U.S. history; and Who Built America?, an award-winning two-volume CD-ROM.

CHNM has also developed a number of online databases and other resources for historians and history teachers, including a listing of 1,200 history departments worldwide; a practical guide to Digital History (online and as a book from the University of Pennsylvania Press); a collection of essays on history and new media; and a popular set of free digital tools for historians and teachers, including Zotero, Web Scrapbook, Survey Builder, Scribe, Poll Builder, and Syllabus Finder.

Posted May 2007

Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments
Contributed by Charles Anderson and Kate Day, University of Edinburgh

Part of a nationally funded initiative within the UK, the Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses project (ETL) was a four-year, large-scale collaborative project designed to examine learning and teaching in the disciplines of biology, economics, electrical engineering, and history. It was underpinned by departmentally based research—using documentary analysis, newly developed inventory-type questionnaires, and group and individual interviews with faculty and students—into what makes for high quality student learning within different subject areas. This included seeking to identify the distinctiveness of disciplinary ways of thinking and practicing, the influence of contextual features as well as teaching and assessment, ways of enhancing student engagement that ‘go with the disciplinary grain,’ and implications for course design and teaching approach in each domain area.

Within the history strand we worked intensively from 2001 to 2005 with three large first-year modules and three more specialist modules distributed among three contrasting university settings. At the same time we also took careful account of the broader picture as regards learning and teaching in history by means of much wider formal and informal consultations with a range of practitioners and the considerable research literature that is now available.

The ETL website contains a short digest of findings in Enhancing Learning and Teaching in History as well as a more detailed Subject Overview Report. History-related findings are also reported in Charles Anderson and Kate Day, “Purposive Environments: Engaging Students in the Values and Practices of History,” Higher Education, 49, no. 3, 319-343; and Charles Anderson and Kate Day with Ranald Michie and David Rollason, “Engaging with Historical Source Work: Practices, Pedagogy, Dialogue,” Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 5, no. 3 (October 2006), 243-263.

Posted May 2007

Peer Review of Teaching Project
Contributed by Amy Nelson Burnett, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Good teaching can be difficult to evaluate. Traditional methods of classroom observation and student evaluation provide information about a teacher’s activities and popularity, but fail to reveal important elements about student learning and effective teaching—such as the planning and overall organization of a course. The course portfolio provides one way to make hidden elements of effective teaching visible for evaluation, assessment, and reward.

The Peer Review of Teaching Project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has assisted almost 150 faculty members in writing portfolios for target courses. These teachers report that the process of writing a portfolio has helped them to clarify their goals, to evaluate the effectiveness of their pedagogical methods, and to document their students’ learning. The project website serves as a repository for portfolios written by faculty from institutions around the world. The portfolios are searchable by institution, author, and keyword, as well as by teaching environment (classroom, laboratory, etc.), type and size of course, and student activities.

Analysis of the collected portfolios has resulted in a book by Daniel Bernstein, Amy Nelson Burnett, Amy Goodburn, and Paul Savory, Making Teaching and Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching (2006) that provides guidelines for writing a course portfolio. The elements of a course portfolio are described in more depth in an article in the October 2006 issue of Perspectives, “A Template for Writing a Course Portfolio to Document Teaching.”

We encourage everyone to browse the course portfolios currently available, and we welcome the submission of additional course portfolios to the site. More information about how to submit is available on the website.

Posted January 2007

The Visible Knowledge Project
Contributed by Michael Coventry, Georgetown University

The Visible Knowledge Project was a five-year (2000-2005) scholarship of teaching project designed to explore the impact of technology on learning in the fields of American culture and history. The project engaged 70 faculty—many of whom are founding members of ISSOTL-H—from 21 different institutions, including three community colleges, four public comprehensive universities, three public research universities, and four private research universities.

Project members asked questions such as: How do novices and experts read texts and images, especially as new technologies transform reading practices? How do students construct knowledge, express themselves, and build arguments through the use of new media? How do students share and build knowledge through both online and face-to-face communication? In other words, we spent five years studying reading, writing, and discussion.

Preliminary statements of project findings are available through the Visible Knowledge Project website and especially the online “gallery.” A volume of essays by participants is expected later this year. In addition, a few of the Americanists within the project collaborated on an article for the Journal of American History detailing our research into teaching students to read images as historical texts and to use multimedia to create historical knowledge.

The project’s staff operated from the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University. The project was co-led by Randy Bass (American Studies and CNDLS, Georgetown University) and Bret Eynon (History and Center for Teaching Excellence, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY).

Posted January 2007

Contributed by Mills Kelly, George Mason University

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use, open source research tool that helps you gather and organize resources (whether bibliography or the full text of articles), and then lets you annotate, organize, and share the results of your research. It combines the best parts of older reference manager software such as EndNote—the ability to store full reference information in author, title, and publication fields and to export that as formatted references—with the best parts of modern software such as del.icio.us or iTunes—the ability to sort, tag, and search in advanced ways. Using its unique ability to sense when you are viewing a book, article, or other resource on the web, Zotero will find and automatically save the full reference information for you in the correct fields in your personal database. Zotero is built for an international audience, it currently supports 14 languages and works with Unicode compliant resources in any modern language. Probably the best introduction to Zotero is the three-minute demonstration. Much more information is available on our website, where you can also download Zotero, which quickly installs in the Firefox browser. The project is generously funded by the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Posted May 2007

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