Teaching and Learning History

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Using AHA Tuning Project Goals with Students

  • 1.  Using AHA Tuning Project Goals with Students

    Posted 04-28-2015 10:34:00 AM

    Good Morning,

    I apologize for the long post as it contains student samples in it.

    At the Tuning symposium in Brooklyn last year, I shared the practice of asking my students to identify a goal or two from the AHA tuning project list that they wanted to work on and develop in our World History online course (I am an adjunct at Northeastern University). At the mid way point of the course I ask students to update the status of their class goal.  Here are some excerpts below.


    The AHA history tuning goal that I identified the first week of the course to apply to my studies is the practice of historical thinking as central to engaged citizenship. This goal spoke to me because it encouraged the understanding of differing viewpoints on an event or situation, supported the deliberation of different perspectives and positions on a historical event while cooperating with others and most importantly urged the application of historical understanding and knowledge to analyze, understand and contribute to current world events. 

    Reflecting back on my selection of my AHA goal I am happy to say that I have been able to apply the principals of my personal goal to the course work and therefore have been able to meet my goal. The resources that I have found most helpful would have to be the webcasts and blog entries in the instructor perspectives tabs. These resources offered me a more focused viewpoint on how I approach not only history but the course reading. With so much history to cover in such a short time the principals of periodization and the benefits and drawbacks of a nation-state approach to history among others have allowed me to hone my skills in analyzing important information while identifying the perspective and narrative of the text. The time line assignments and discussions have given me platforms to express my interests and opinions that correlate to my AHA goal and push me to dig deeper and expand on my arguments with cited evidence. Even after just four weeks I have been able to formulate a more well rounded understanding of historical events that have led up to present day and identify the multiple perspectives that make a person or event significant. I have found myself applying these principals when reading about current world events that are affecting us today and feel confident in my understanding of the deep rooted tensions and historical ties that still cause friction on the fabric of global peace. 



    The AHA goal that I am working on meeting involves generating significant open-ended questions about the past and devise research strategies to answer them.  One way in which the resources/activities in this course have of assisted  me thus far in meeting this goal is learning and utilizing the method of periodization and understanding the fact that it is a process of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time in order to make the study and analysis of history easier to facilitate.

    In using the method of periodization, I can come up with questions such as, "Within most history books written by Europeans, why is it that mostly all other nationalities have a voice except Africans?" or "Was it really destined for blacks or people of the darker skin tone to be considered the most inferior beings created?"  These are just a few questions that most certainly plague my mind as well as many others that I encounter.





    The week one AHA tuning goal that I chose, was to practice historical empathy. According to the AHA website link from the week one supporting materials, it describes historical empathy as "the study of the past for its contribution to lifelong learning and critical habits of mind that are essential for effective and engaged citizenship. Interpret the past in context; contextualize the past on its own terms. Explore multiple historical and theoretical viewpoints that provide perspective on the past." (http://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/current-projects/tuning/history-discipline-core)

    I believe the class structure has helped me learn a new method of thinking about history. In past history courses many years ago, I remember the class being more about memorization of key dates, places and people when notable events occurred. This class allows you to look at history in a different perspective, and also the periodization allows you to learn of more areas that were affected by certain events, rather than focusing on one country or continent. I also see myself drawing upon previous knowledge of certain events that we have read about in class, but may not have been mentioned in the Stearns textbook. With historical empathy, I can see how history has been written by some to highlight their accomplishments, while either downplaying or not mentioning the impact that it had on others. An example would be the Eurocentric documentation of some historical events as noted by Gunder Frank in reference to the quote by Braudel.

    There are a few features in this course that have helped me continue to achieve my goal of historical empathy. The first would be the discussion board. The questions have been thought provoking, rather than simply asking for a recital of learned facts. Also I have found that corresponding with my classmates who may have a different understanding of a topic or perhaps viewed the topic from a different perspective helps me to understand the events more thoroughly. The second item that helped me was the diagram of historical study, with the six different perspectives and interwoven methods to analyze the subject that has been placed in the center of the diagram. I look forward to using historical empathy in the remainder of this class and also going forward as a new tool for critical thinking.   

    Then, at the course's conclusion, I ask them to respond to the prompt "To what extent did you achieve your class goal? Explain your progress and how the course activities, content, and structure contributed to your level of achievement." 

    Last semester, I used an online Post-it note board called Lino, http://en.linoit.com/  They use a simple color code to identify level of success, Green Posit = High Achievement.  Yellow = Mild/Satisfactory Progress. Red = Little or no Progress on the goal. I use the app to access submissions on my phone as well.

    This is my fourth class using this approach.  It is only part of the feedback I get as I use essays, discussion boards, and student made screencast presentations as assessments too. Students, I believe, see the difference from other courses that are heavy on multiple choice question tests. This translates into the development of a skillset that transfers to their personal and professional lives.  This is a valuable and real benefit of studying the past they can use in the future. 

    Any similar experiences, questions, or comments?

    Craig Perrier
    Fairfax County Public Sch.
    Arlington VA