Tuning the History Discipline in the United States

The American Historical Association is coordinating a nationwide, faculty-led project to articulate the disciplinary core of historical study and to define what a student should understand and be able to do at the completion of a history degree program.

This AHA project has already brought together accomplished history faculty from more than sixty institutions across the country. These faculty participants have been working together to develop common language that communicates to a broad audience the significance and value of a history degree. The current version of the discipline core, competencies, and student learning outcomes is available here.

In the autumn of 2011, Lumina Foundation awarded the AHA a three-year grant for the history “Tuning” project. Tuning is a collaborative process which convenes experts in a discipline to spell out the distinctive skills, methods, and substantive range of that field. Participants then work to harmonize or “tune” the core goals of their discipline and the curricula that support those goals on each participating campus. This and other Tuning projects are featured on the Tuning USA website.

As a process that faculty direct and can tailor to local needs and circumstances, tuning offers us a powerful way to harmonize the usually fragmented conversation about assessment and to make the conversation useful in teaching and explaining the value of historical study. The project does not aim to standardize curricula in history, but seeks to frame common goals-and reference points for measuring progress toward those goals-for post-secondary history education. The process begins with discussion about foundational student competencies, builds toward the goals of the history major, and sharpens to a focus on particular fields, with historians front and center at all stages. Tuning provides a method for faculty to develop goals, methodologies, and assessment tools appropriate to each department and to each institution’s unique mission. The AHA Tuning project will help students, faculty, departments, and institutions by scaling those competencies and outcomes to each degree level (AA, BA, and MA). Assisted by experienced historians and tuning experts, participating faculty and other project personnel will continue to collaborate in workshops and on-line forums to craft a common framework that establishes appropriate and fair expectations for students of history.

2013 Tuning Core Document

The AHA’s Tuning project has released a new version of its Discipline Core—a statement of the central habits of mind, skills, and understanding that students achieve when they major in history. The document reflects the iterative nature of the tuning process. The faculty director of the project, Anne F. Hyde (Colorado Coll.), incorporated feedback that the AHA received after the first version was published. We hope that the new version can again serve as the basis for conversations among history faculty, and between faculty and students, alumni, public historians, parents, administrators, employers, and others about the value of studying history in particular.

History Discipline Core

Meet the Tuners

Leadership Core

Anne Hyde, AHA Teaching Division, Colorado College, chair
Patricia Limerick, AHA Teaching Division, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, ex officio
John Bezis-Selfa, Wheaton College, Mass.
Elizabeth Lehfeldt, Cleveland State University
Gregory Nobles, Georgia Institute of Technology
Kevin Reilly, Raritan Valley Community College
Stefan Tanaka, Univ. of California San Diego

Meet More Tuners