History 301: The Art and Craft of Teaching History (Graduate seminar and workshop)

Course Description

Introduction to the theory and practice of college-level teaching. Readings on pedagogical theory, current research on teaching and learning. Hands-on exercises in course design, preparing tests and assignments, grading, lecturing, leading discussion, cooperative learning, service learning, and use of technology to enhance teaching. Normally limited to graduate students in History.


1. Class discussions and group exercises form the nucleus of this course, and I expect all students to participate actively in them.

2. Written assignments for this class consist of a series of 11 exercises, typed double-spaced, culminating in the presentation of a formal teaching portfolio suitable for inclusion in an employment dossier. There will be no examinations in this class.

3. Each student will arrange to give one guest lecture in a regularly-scheduled class taught by a history professor this semester. The student will arrange for a representative from the Center for Teaching (NOT from the Learning Resource Center) to videotape the lecture, and will subsequently go through the Center’s standard consultation about the videotaped lecture, as well as meet with Prof. Bess to discuss the experience. A 2-page report on this process will be due at the next meeting of History 301 after the student delivers this guest lecture.

4. Each student will lead class discussion for the first 60 minutes of class during one class session in the course of the semester. I will meet with the student subsequently to offer feedback about the student’s techniques in leadership of class discussion.


Wilbert J. McKeachie, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 11th edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002) [hereafter denoted as McKeachie].

Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Philadelphia: Temple U. Press, 2001).

I will make available most of the articles listed below by putting them on reserve in the History Department office. The assigned books will be available in the Campus Bookstore in Rand Hall (needless to say, you are free to choose which ones, if any, you want to buy).

Course Schedule

Week 1 (Sept. 3): Introduction and Overview of course

Students sign up to lead class discussions during the semester. Students discuss best and worst teachers they’ve ever had, form lists of salient attributes of both groups.

Week 2 (Sept. 10): The nature of learning and the goals of teaching


• McKeachie, pp. 1- 8, 269-304

• Palmer, The Courage to Teach, pp. 1-33. Available electronically through Acorn web access. Type in “Palmer Courage Teach” into Acorn search, then click on third item in list.

• Michael Bess, “My teaching philosophy”

• Marshall Eakin, “My teaching philosophy”

• Marshall Eakin, “Is this Vanderbilt’s Golden Age?”

Week 3 (Sept. 17): Teaching History to Undergraduates: What are we trying to achieve? Exercise 1 due: My teaching philosophy (2 pp.; copies to classmates)


• Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, Introduction, plus chs. 1, 3

Week 4 (Sept. 24): Course design (Part I)


• McKeachie, pp. 9-28

• Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, “The Backward Design Process,” in Understanding by Design (2000), pp. 9-13

• Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, ch. 4

Week 5 (Oct. 1): Leading a discussion: how to be an effective midwife to the students’

formulation of their own ideas


• McKeachie, pp. 29-51.

• Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, chs. 6, 7

• Bess, “Eight successive incarnations of the syllabus for this course”

• Bess, syllabus for course on WWII

Week 6 (Oct. 8): Course design (Part II): Small group discussion of syllabus drafts

Exercise 2 due: syllabus draft (copies to classmates)


• Barbara Harrell Carson, “Bad News in the Service of Good Teaching: Students Remember Ineffective Professors,” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 10:91-105 (1999).

• Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, chs. 9, 10

Week 7 (Oct. 15): What makes a good reading or writing assignment?

Exercise 3 due: One detailed writing assignment, with articulation of goals (copies to classmates)


• McKeachie, pp. 169-186.

• Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard, 2004), chs. 1, 2 (pp. 1-47)

Week 8 (Wednesday, October 24, time TBA): What makes a good examination?

Exercise 4 due: Two sample exam questions, with articulation of goals for each (copies to classmates)


• McKeachie, pp. 70-102

Week 9 (Oct. 29): How to grade and evaluate student work constructively

Exercise 5 due: grade and evaluate one student paper (copies to classmates)


• McKeachie, pp. 103-116

Week 10 (Nov. 5): The art of lecturing (Part I)

Exercise 6 due: Visits to two professors’ classes; take notes comparing styles, techniques, etc. (copies to classmates)

Exercise 8 (no specific due date): Give guest lecture in someone’s history class, plus videotaping and post-lecture consultation with Center for Teaching; hand in 2-page report on this process (copies to classmates). Soon thereafter, meet with Bess to discuss the whole experience.


• McKeachie, pp. 52-69.

• Daniel F. Chambliss, “Doing What Works: On the Mundanity of Excellence in Teaching,” pp. 419-434.

Week 11 (Nov. 12): The art of lecturing (Part II).

Exercise 7 due: Outline (for your students) to go on blackboard or into class pack for 50-minute lecture in one day’s class (copies to classmates)


• The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities” (1998), online at http://naples.cc.sunysb.edu/Pres/boyer.nsf/

Week 12 : Thanksgiving Break

Week 13 (Nov. 26): Beyond the lecture: active and cooperative learning; service learning

Exercise 9 due: design an in-class small-group activity (1-2 pp.) (copies to classmates)


• McKeachie, pp. 117-127, 187- 203.

• Elizabeth Grauerholz, Brett McKenzie, and Mary Romero, “Beyond These Walls: Teaching Within and Outside the Expanded Classroom Boundaries in the 21st Century,” in P&A, pp. 582-597.

• Delivee L. Wright, “Using Learning Groups in Your Classroom: A Few How-to’s,” pp. 133-139.

• Kathleen McKinney and Mary Graham-Buxton, “The Use of Collaborative Learning Groups in the Large Class: Is It Possible?” pp. 140-141.

Week 14 (Dec. 3): Using new (and old) technologies, or How I Killed and Maimed Using


Exercise 10 due: design and describe a way to use technology to enhance your teaching; describe a way to use technology that seems likely to be counterproductive, and explain why (1-2 pp.) (copies to classmates)


• McKeachie, pp. 204-224.

Week 15 (Dec. 10): Confronting the job market; race, class, and gender issues (for both students and teachers); sexual harassment; student evaluations; and other thorny issues. Discussion of the teacher’s vocation.

(Guest: Allison Pingree, Director of the Center for Teaching)

Final Assignment due: hand in formal teaching portfolio with sample syllabus, teaching statement, assignment sample, exam sample, class outline for single class (copies to classmates)


• American Association of University Professors, “Sexual Harassment: Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints” (1990).

• Susanne Bohmer and Joyce L. Briggs, “Teaching Privileged Students about Gender, Race, and Class Oppression,” Teaching Sociology 19 (April 1991), pp. 154-163.

• Lynn Weber Cannon, “Fostering Positive Race, Class, and Gender Dynamics in the Classroom,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 18 (1990), pp. 126-134.

• Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Other Voices (VU Center for Teaching Newsletter, Spring 2000), pp. 4-5.