Teaching and Learning History

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  • 1.  Foreign Instructors/Foreign Students

    Posted 07-28-2014 05:05:00 PM

    Hi all,

    Thought you might find this recent essay from the Chronicle interesting.  It was written by an Australian historian teaching for the first time at a US college (Quinnipiac), and considers a number of issues related to the issue of "relevance" for students, and how history does and doesn't build on the narratives that students learn in k-12 education.  It rightly centers on the pedagogical reorientation necessary for this kind of cross-cultural teaching; but I've also received emails asking about the differences in syllabi and readings in how Americans and other teach U.S. history.
    Does anyone in the group teach students who went through elementary or secondary schools beyond the U.S.?  Are there non-U.S. instructors here who might have something to add to our perspectives on how to engage students in learning history?

    Thanks for your input!


    A Foreigner Teaching in America

    In his first year on the job, a faculty member grapples with culture clash

    Julia Brookins
    American Historical Assoc.
    Washington DC

  • 2.  RE: Foreign Instructors/Foreign Students

    Posted 07-28-2014 05:57:00 PM
    I had to laugh when I read the author's observation that Americans speak of their history using "we."  I remember falling victim to this same habit early in my teaching career at Rutgers-Newark.  I used the term "we" and then looked around the room only to be reminded that the majority of my students either had not been born in the United States or were likely the children of immigrants.  Many also would not have easily identified with the experiences of the "average" American and the unified narrative suggested by the term "we."  I continue to teach a very diverse group of students at Union County College and find the varied backgrounds of the students to be an invaluable asset to the classroom experience.  For example, having an American-born student explain grammar school traditions of Thanksgiving to someone who did not go to the school in the United States provokes both parties to more closely consider the relationship between American culture and its history.  Another time, a student from Nicaragua, who rarely spoke in class, read and translated a poem by Ruben Dario condemning Teddy Roosevelt's imperialist actions thus helping to begin a much more in-depth discussion of Roosevelt's actions and American policy in general. 

    The "pedagogical reorientation" that Julia references often makes us better teachers.  However, I am not sure there need to be clear differences in the syllabi as long as time and space are made for discussion when necessary and additional (optional) resources are made available. 

    Michele Rotunda
    Union County Coll.
    Cranford NJ