Thinking About Historical Thinking

For my history major in undergrad, I had to take a Historiography course. Everyone complained about this course, saying that it was boring, difficult, and that depending on the professor teaching it, hellish. I took the course with one of my favorite professors and although it was a difficult class, I learned so much about myself as a student of history.

Now, as a graduate student who hopes to one day teach in higher education,  I yearn for historiographical discussions and arguments. So I really enjoyed this week’s readings. These readings were incredibly insightful and I feel as though I learned a lot about teaching history through them. While reading these articles, a few questions came to mind. Hopefully this course will help answer these questions for me.

Why study history? Why teach history?

This question comes to mind often for me. Why do I study this topic? What do I hope to gain from it? Why do I feel that teaching history is crucial/necessary/important? I don’t think I will ever accept one answer to this question. My goal is to continuously ask myself this question, to remind myself to always think critically about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Ultimately, I do believe that we can learn from our past. But I also think history, and the learning of history, connects us to our identity and our memory and also unites us as communities and as a world. The purpose of history lies here. It is our identity that informs the decisions we make in our current world. In this way, history can inform our decisions, so long as we can understand it.

To teach is different than to study for oneself. But just as it important for myself to learn about history, I feel that it is important for others to do so as well. Hopefully, as a teacher, I could enable students to work with the past in order to better understand our present.

What are the best methods for teaching history?

This week’s readings were fascinating in many ways, but I particularly enjoyed them for the methodology. Calder’s article showed a unique way of structuring introductory level history courses to best teach students how to do history. Something that really stood out to me was the notion that most students don’t know what history is, so how can we expect them to do history? I think this is a key. I hope to discover new ways to teach students what the study of history is, in order to then teach them the skills necessary to do history.

How can I best integrate digital tools to teach history?

The readings didn’t talk about this much, but it is something that I’m sure future readings in this course will discuss. I think that digital technologies and tools could help students learn history and do history. 


Edited 6/9/2017:

This week, we read our professor’s article on The History Curriculum in 2023. This article discussed ways in which history curriculum should be expanded so that the discipline of history does not falter with the advent of digital technologies. Our professor discusses this through using the 4 M’s: Making, Mining, Marking, and Mashing. Each are valuable to teach our students in the digital age and will help students create more viable historical work. Ultimately, I think it is key for us to incorporate “new” ways of doing history, whether its using 3D printing to create material culture from the past for a dialogue on historical thought or creating a mashup of historical clips, while still basing our process in historical thinking. Whatever new work we do as historians, we should continuously ask ourselves the same questions that historians have always asked. As long as we are still completing the historical thinking that has grounded the historical discipline for over a century, we should feel free to expand the bounds of the discipline. However, we do have to be careful not to stray too far from the bounds of history. Teachers and professors should be continuously brainstorming new methods of teaching history.  Digital tools should be incorporated into the study of history and the teaching of history to ensure that the discipline stays viable in the modern world of technology.

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