Curricular Conversation beyond the Institution

Curricular Conversation beyond the Institution Over the past decade, the “Textbooks and Teaching” section has envisioned the history curriculum holistically. Several installments have focused on departments' efforts to reimagine and assess their entire curricula in light of the analytical, research, and writing skills that historians strive to foster in our students. Others have considered key moments in the history major, such as survey, methods, and capstone courses. Throughout this decade, we have emphasized the scholarship of teaching and learning: research-based approaches to understanding what and how students learn, as a precondition for rethinking what and how we teach.1 Increasingly, thinking about the history curriculum at the institutional level seems insufficient. College-level history teachers have long appreciated that students arrive on campus with some background from high school, though that training may vary widely. Today's students at four-year colleges and universities are also likely to have studied previously at another college, whether a community college or a different four-year institution. Many students now take college courses at their high school. Recognizing the multiple paths that our students follow, historians have realized the value of conversations about the discipline's core concepts and undertaken several projects to deepen the connections between history teaching across institutions. Critical to these discussions is the growing imperative to articulate the practical benefits of a history major for future careers. The American Historical Association's History Tuning Project, for example, speaks to both goals. This section addresses how to fortify those links, and why we should. The essays that follow encourage historians to build networks of curricular collaboration and conversation within departments and beyond. In “A Network of Curricular Connections: Lessons from Cultivating History in the State of Utah,” Daniel J. McInerney describes how statewide conversations about general education became the foundation for building discipline-specific collaboration among history departments at public universities across the state. The network has proved both enriching and strategic. As trends in the discipline, new pedagogies, legislative demands, and academic reforms have demanded changes of history departments, faculty were well prepared to react thoughtfully and take the lead in the processes of academic change on their individual campuses, across the state, and nationally. McInerney concludes with a helpful list of recommendations to guide departments at all types of institutions.2 One pressing challenge departments face is defending the value of a history major. Driven by the rising costs of college, competitive job markets, and parental demands, many young people, especially those not coming from socioeconomic privilege, are surrounded by the language of careers from the earliest years of middle and high school. Utilitarian thinking frequently shapes their decisions about a major as they enter college. Aware of these pressures on students to align their major with a career path, Daniel S. Murphree describes a recently designed course at the University of Central Florida, “Professionalizing History Majors,” which pushes historians to work more directly with colleagues outside the world of academic history. As current and potential majors wrestle with the question “what can I do with a degree in history,” departments can help them learn of and explore a variety of careers in the professional world of history practitioners. Such an approach also may appeal to those who majored in history but have gone into other sectors, which might seem unrelated to the discipline but for which history's habits of mind and skills have prepared them well. Murphree illustrates how such courses contribute to career diversity initiatives on campus and in the wider historical profession.3 The final essay in the section further suggests the need for broad conversations focused on student learning. In “What Is Learned in College History Classes?” Sam Wineburg, Mark Smith, and Joel Breakstone of the Stanford History Education Group demonstrate why collaborations within history departments and between high school and college history teachers warrant further effort. They find that college students in their study learned little about historical thinking between their freshman and junior years, in contrast to findings that high school students were able to make gains when curriculum supported such goals. These outcomes suggest that history faculty within a department might profitably collaborate to help their majors become more sophisticated readers and users of primary sources. Moreover, they highlight the potential to make greater gains if historians and K–12 educators work together to build these skills across students' educational experience.4 With the publication of this section, Scott Casper steps away from his contributing editorship after a decade of service to cultivating a national conversation about history teaching. These essays bring his tenure full circle. Together, they reinforce one of the goals he brought to his work as contributing editor: to foster holistic approaches to historical education, reaching across different—but connected—academic settings and between the academic and nonacademic communities within a college or university. Like the authors in this section, we see this as enriching and valuable work for colleagues and academic departments and critical to the future vitality of our discipline. As Laura Westhoff stays on as contributing editor, this vision will continue to shape the direction of “Textbooks and Teaching.” 1 On efforts to reimagine and reassess curricula, see “More than the Sum of Its Parts: Rethinking the History Curriculum,” Journal of American History, 95 (March 2009), 1092–124; and “Surprising Opportunities for Historians: Taking Control of the Assessment Process,” ibid., 102 (March 2016), 1102–37. For considerations of key moments in the history major, see “Starting Places: Studying How Students Understand History,” ibid., 94 (March 2008), 1184–224; “Pivotal Moments in the History Curriculum: Surveys and Snapshots of Current Practice,” ibid., 98 (March 2012), 1093–126; and “Globalizing the U.S. Survey,” ibid., 103 (March 2017), 981–1011. “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the History Classroom,” ibid., 97 (March 2011), 1048–88. 2 Daniel J. McInerney, “A Network of Curricular Connections: Lessons from Cultivating History in the State of Utah,” ibid., 104 (March 2018), 956–971. 3 Daniel S. Murphree, “‘Professionalizing History Majors’: A New Approach to Broadening the Perspectives of Undergraduates on Their Postgraduation Worlds,” ibid., 972–982. 4 Sam Wineburg, Mark Smith, and Joel Breakstone, “What Is Learned in College History Classes?,” ibid., 983–993. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Curricular Conversation beyond the Institution

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
D.O.I.
10.1093/jahist/jax431
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Over the past decade, the “Textbooks and Teaching” section has envisioned the history curriculum holistically. Several installments have focused on departments' efforts to reimagine and assess their entire curricula in light of the analytical, research, and writing skills that historians strive to foster in our students. Others have considered key moments in the history major, such as survey, methods, and capstone courses. Throughout this decade, we have emphasized the scholarship of teaching and learning: research-based approaches to understanding what and how students learn, as a precondition for rethinking what and how we teach.1 Increasingly, thinking about the history curriculum at the institutional level seems insufficient. College-level history teachers have long appreciated that students arrive on campus with some background from high school, though that training may vary widely. Today's students at four-year colleges and universities are also likely to have studied previously at another college, whether a community college or a different four-year institution. Many students now take college courses at their high school. Recognizing the multiple paths that our students follow, historians have realized the value of conversations about the discipline's core concepts and undertaken several projects to deepen the connections between history teaching across institutions. Critical to these discussions is the growing imperative to articulate the practical benefits of a history major for future careers. The American Historical Association's History Tuning Project, for example, speaks to both goals. This section addresses how to fortify those links, and why we should. The essays that follow encourage historians to build networks of curricular collaboration and conversation within departments and beyond. In “A Network of Curricular Connections: Lessons from Cultivating History in the State of Utah,” Daniel J. McInerney describes how statewide conversations about general education became the foundation for building discipline-specific collaboration among history departments at public universities across the state. The network has proved both enriching and strategic. As trends in the discipline, new pedagogies, legislative demands, and academic reforms have demanded changes of history departments, faculty were well prepared to react thoughtfully and take the lead in the processes of academic change on their individual campuses, across the state, and nationally. McInerney concludes with a helpful list of recommendations to guide departments at all types of institutions.2 One pressing challenge departments face is defending the value of a history major. Driven by the rising costs of college, competitive job markets, and parental demands, many young people, especially those not coming from socioeconomic privilege, are surrounded by the language of careers from the earliest years of middle and high school. Utilitarian thinking frequently shapes their decisions about a major as they enter college. Aware of these pressures on students to align their major with a career path, Daniel S. Murphree describes a recently designed course at the University of Central Florida, “Professionalizing History Majors,” which pushes historians to work more directly with colleagues outside the world of academic history. As current and potential majors wrestle with the question “what can I do with a degree in history,” departments can help them learn of and explore a variety of careers in the professional world of history practitioners. Such an approach also may appeal to those who majored in history but have gone into other sectors, which might seem unrelated to the discipline but for which history's habits of mind and skills have prepared them well. Murphree illustrates how such courses contribute to career diversity initiatives on campus and in the wider historical profession.3 The final essay in the section further suggests the need for broad conversations focused on student learning. In “What Is Learned in College History Classes?” Sam Wineburg, Mark Smith, and Joel Breakstone of the Stanford History Education Group demonstrate why collaborations within history departments and between high school and college history teachers warrant further effort. They find that college students in their study learned little about historical thinking between their freshman and junior years, in contrast to findings that high school students were able to make gains when curriculum supported such goals. These outcomes suggest that history faculty within a department might profitably collaborate to help their majors become more sophisticated readers and users of primary sources. Moreover, they highlight the potential to make greater gains if historians and K–12 educators work together to build these skills across students' educational experience.4 With the publication of this section, Scott Casper steps away from his contributing editorship after a decade of service to cultivating a national conversation about history teaching. These essays bring his tenure full circle. Together, they reinforce one of the goals he brought to his work as contributing editor: to foster holistic approaches to historical education, reaching across different—but connected—academic settings and between the academic and nonacademic communities within a college or university. Like the authors in this section, we see this as enriching and valuable work for colleagues and academic departments and critical to the future vitality of our discipline. As Laura Westhoff stays on as contributing editor, this vision will continue to shape the direction of “Textbooks and Teaching.” 1 On efforts to reimagine and reassess curricula, see “More than the Sum of Its Parts: Rethinking the History Curriculum,” Journal of American History, 95 (March 2009), 1092–124; and “Surprising Opportunities for Historians: Taking Control of the Assessment Process,” ibid., 102 (March 2016), 1102–37. For considerations of key moments in the history major, see “Starting Places: Studying How Students Understand History,” ibid., 94 (March 2008), 1184–224; “Pivotal Moments in the History Curriculum: Surveys and Snapshots of Current Practice,” ibid., 98 (March 2012), 1093–126; and “Globalizing the U.S. Survey,” ibid., 103 (March 2017), 981–1011. “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the History Classroom,” ibid., 97 (March 2011), 1048–88. 2 Daniel J. McInerney, “A Network of Curricular Connections: Lessons from Cultivating History in the State of Utah,” ibid., 104 (March 2018), 956–971. 3 Daniel S. Murphree, “‘Professionalizing History Majors’: A New Approach to Broadening the Perspectives of Undergraduates on Their Postgraduation Worlds,” ibid., 972–982. 4 Sam Wineburg, Mark Smith, and Joel Breakstone, “What Is Learned in College History Classes?,” ibid., 983–993. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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