Toward a Signature Pedagogy for History Education
History Didactics in Sweden
Meeting Planned in Sydney
Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments
Charles Anderson and Kate Day
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 to Keith A. Erekson, Managing Editor. The newsletter is sponsored by the History Department at Indiana University and is the official newsletter of History SoTL: An International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History.
Toward a Signature Pedagogy for History Education
By Lendol Calder, Augustana College
Note: Professor Calder will respond to comments about this article on the History SoTL blog.
In an essay that appeared in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of American History (JAH), I invited history teachers to work collectively and publicly to impress “the signature of history” onto introductory history courses.1 The problem needing our attention is that the pedagogy we historians use to teach introductory courses is highly generic. Everyone is familiar with how the typical history survey course works—lectures, textbooks, examinations, maybe a short paper—but few have reflected on what it means that history shares these design elements with other 101-type courses across the curriculum. 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—they may leave the introductory course completely in the dark about how knowledge of the past differs from the study of living organisms or the analysis of economic conditions or the science of numbers. With an eye to correcting this sort of “cluelessness by design” as it might be called, I hoped that my article would stimulate creative thinking about what a “signature pedagogy” for history courses might look like. What has happened since the article appeared, and what do I mean by “the signature of history”?
The concept of a signature pedagogy comes from the Carnegie Foundation’s landmark series of studies on preparation for the professions. Early on in their work, Lee Shulman and his colleagues noticed that the professions have developed forms of teaching and learning characteristic for each field. Medical schools train physicians through the bedside ritual of clinical rounds. Engineering faculty put students together in collaborative design studios. Law schools train students to think like lawyers through the case dialogue method. Seminaries mingle study with prayer and community service. In the same way that individuals have a unique style of handwriting, each profession seems to have worked out common modes of teaching that consistently show up across courses and institutions. These “signature pedagogies” disclose important information about the personality of a professional field—its values, knowledge, and manner of thinking, almost, perhaps, its total worldview.2
How different it is for undergraduates in the liberal arts. In history, biology, psychology, or economics, it is not thought necessary to require beginners to do, think, and value what practitioners in the field are doing, thinking, and valuing. In history, the assumption has been that instructional methods intended for graduate students could not possibly work for novices who lack even basic information about the past. Thus, only after a groundwork of factual knowledge has been laid are students allowed to go on to more advanced interpretive work. Traditionally, history has reserved its signature pedagogy—the research seminar—for upper-level students and those pursuing advanced degrees.
As I explained in my JAH article, this approach makes sense if one ignores the last fifty years of research on how humans learn. The reality, however, is that generic pedagogies deprive students of design features that Shulman believes are responsible for the remarkable effectiveness of professional education.3 Three of these elements seem to be particularly important. First, signature pedagogies unfold from big questions that students are likely to find meaningful and that invite students to learn how expert practitioners in a discipline think and act. Second, the intellectual project envisioned by these questions is advanced through a standard pattern of instructional routines that get students doing what professionals in the field do. Finally, signature pedagogies demand public performances from students on a regular basis. As Shulman explains, putting students on the spot creates “atmospheres of risk-taking and foreboding, as well as occasions for exhilaration and excitement.”4 In other words, signature pedagogies get students engaged.
The problem of engagement is what gives introductory history courses a reputation for being the Death Star to student learning. Like Luke Skywalker’s desperate sally against the Death Star of the Galactic Empire, I hoped my little salvo against the coverage-oriented survey might contribute to the demise of old, ineffective course models and lead to a better day for the introductory history course. What is happening on this front?
Clearly, I’m no Luke Skywalker, as the hegemonic history survey survives and thrives. But across the blogosphere and at conferences and workshops, real progress is being made to build replacement models, with lively conversations breaking out on the question of what historical thinking skills should be taught in introductory courses.
My article suggested six cognitive habits suitable for introductory courses: questioning, connecting, inferencing, sourcing, developing multiple perspectives, and recognizing limits to knowledge.5 An alternative to my list was put forward in the January 2007 AHA Perspectives, when Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke proposed “the five C’s of historical thinking”: change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency.6 This spring, at the 100th meeting of the Organization of American Historians, Gary Kornblith and Carol Lasser reflected before a large audience of teachers on what they had learned about historical thinking in their tenure as editors of the JAH “Textbooks and Teaching” section. They argued that introductory courses should teach five truths about the past: the pastness of the past, the presentness of the past, the constructed nature of the past, that facts from the past don’t speak for themselves, and the contested nature of knowledge about the past. The conversation about cognitive outcomes for the introductory course continued at an April workshop for history survey teachers sponsored by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, where participants were invited to reflect on five “axioms” of historical study developed by Penny Gold of Knox College: change, context, complexity, evidence, and limits to historical knowledge. The overlap in these lists of outcomes is encouraging; the differences are striking and worth talking more about. I would say that the ACM Survey Workshop is a model for others to follow and was exactly what I had in mind when I called on teachers of introductory courses to work together to create a signature pedagogy for history.
We have much more to explore. 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? If the analysis of historical texts defines the center of history’s signature pedagogy, must it mark the circumference as well? Or are there routines so effective for learning historical mindedness that history teachers everywhere could be persuaded to build courses around them? I hope that in ten years’ time we will have made real progress in finding ways to impress the signature of history onto all our history courses.
1. Lendol Calder, “Uncoverage: Toward A Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” Journal of American History 92 (March 2006): 1358-70; a companion site presents detailed evidence of student learning.
2. Lee Shulman, “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” Dædalus 134 (Summer 2005): 52-59; Lee Shulman, “Pedagogies of Uncertainty,” Liberal Learning 91 (Spring 2005): 18-25.
3. Shulman, “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” 56-58.
4. Shulman, “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” 57.
5. Calder, “Uncoverage,” 1364-68.
6. Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke, “What Does it Mean to Think Historically?” AHA Perspectives 45 (January 2007): 32-35.
History Didactics in Sweden
By Bengt Schüllerqvist, Karlstads Universitet
The concept of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is not unknown in Sweden, but there is no good translation. When Scandinavians talk about questions relating to history education the term Historiedididaktik is used. This term is a translation of Geschichtsdidaktik which has long been used among educationalists in the German-speaking world. It has to be observed, however, that the German concept possesses a broader meaning than the English.
Nordic conferences devoted to History Didactics were inaugurated in the early 1980s, and no less than eight have been held. All of these scholarly meetings have been documented in publications, though most of them only in Scandinavian languages.1 Consequently, very few Swedes have published their results in English or some other common language.
Articles from the Nordic conferences deal with many aspects of history use. Lately, questions relating to the following three aspects have dominated:
- • the practise of history outside of schools and universities in the general society,
- • changing cultural aspects of history, and
- • historical consciousness.
This last concept is the most frequently invoked in different articles and scholarly reports and at the same time its definition produces the most disagreement among scholars. Historical consciousness stresses all three temporal dimensions—past, present, and future—and can also be said to include not only cognitive aspects but emotional and mythical ones as well. There seems to be a relation to questions studied by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen in their well-known study of the popular uses of history.2 Much debate has explored how such a broad concept could be operationalised for empirical research. Advocates of the value of historical consciousness as a research tool argue that history as it is taught in schools has little to do with the lives and experiences of ordinary people.
Until recently, the Nordic meetings provided the only place for an organised scholarly debate about historical education. And while there have been no Swedish national conferences, research by individual scholars has been channelled through the Yearbook of the Swedish History Teachers Association.
During the last few years, however, a couple of national conferences have been organized: one of them focusing on history courses for future teachers; another intended to deal with research in the field of History Didactics, with particular attention to the use of history within the educational system.3 These growing conference activities will hopefully be compatible with the ambitions of History SoTL: An International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History.
1. David Ludvigsson and Bengt Schüllerqvist, “Swedish Research on the Use of History,” a paper presented at the History in Higher Education Conference, Oxford, England, April 2005 [for readers of Scandinavian languages, Bengt Schüllerqvist: Svensk historiedidaktisk forskning, Vetenskapsrådets rapportserie 2005:9]; contact the author to requset a copy.
2. Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).
3. The next Swedish conference on research in History Didactics will be held at the University of Umeå, March 31-April 1, 2008; for more information contact conference organizer Daniel Lindmark.
Meeting Planned in Sydney
Contributed by Sean Brawley, University of New South Wales
History SoTL will hold its next meeting in conjunction with the annual conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Sydney, Australia, on July 2-5, 2007. Time has been set aside in the official program on July 4 from 2-5 p.m. for historians to get together in room Morven Brown 211. There will be time for presentations and the School of History and Philosophy at the University of New South Wales will be hosting drinks for historians.
For more information, please contact Sean Brawley who is spearheading local arrangements.
Society Membership Surpasses 250
History SoTL was organized in Washington, D.C. in November 2006 and this website and newsletter were unveiled in January 2007. In January, press releases were sent to various H-Net discussion lists and to mailing lists accessible to members of the steering committee. An article describing the society appeared in the November 2006 issue of The History Teacher and other announcements are forthcoming in History Australia and Arts & Humanities in Higher Education.
As of May 2007, 256 people from 11 countries have joined the society. Those who have provided their names are listed as founding members on the website. Please verify that your information is listed properly. All who join the society before July 1, 2007, will be counted as founding members. If you are a member of the society and not listed as a founding member, please login (click the link on the bottom right of the homepage) and update your user profile.
History SoTL relies upon its members to spread the word about what we are doing. Now that you have joined, share the news with others by forwarding this site’s URL or the press release announcing this issue to interested colleagues or discussion lists.
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.
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.
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.
All members of the society are invited to contribute to the newsletter.
- • ARTICLE contributions report recent happenings, note current trends, and identify emerging issues (500-1,000 words).
- • SPOTLIGHT contributions announce events, highlight research projects, and profile individuals and departments (100-200 words).
- • All contributions to the society’s website—blog posts, syllabi, conference and publishing announcements—will be summarized in the newsletter’s ONSITE section.
Contact the editor to discuss your ideas.
Recent Blog Posts
This issue features an article by Lendol Calder about developing a signature pedagogy for history. Professor Calder will respond to comments about his article.
New Syllabi Posted On the Site
Marie Hooper of Oklahoma City University is designing a course on World Civilizations to 1500 that will feature history through art and has requested comments on her work.
Mills Kelly of Georgetown University has contributed a syllabus for a course on history and new media titled Clio Wired.
David Pace, Leah Shopkow, and Michael Grossberg of Indiana University have contributed syllabi for their department’s three-part pedagogy sequence for doctoral students. The series features Teaching College History, Teaching World History, and Teaching United States History.