Publication Date

September 22, 2015

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

The AHA and its local partners, the Texas State Historical Association and the history department of the University of Texas at Austin, held a two-day conference on college-level introductory history courses. On August 28 and 29—during the first week of fall classes at many institutions—close to 100 faculty from around Texas gathered on the UT campus to discuss a range of issues affecting introductory history courses. In Texas, history plays an unusually large role in general education programs for undergraduates at public colleges and universities.

Participants heard from a number of distinguished guests. On the first day, Lendol Calder (Augustana Coll.) opened the event by explaining strategies to help students develop cognitive skills and ways of understanding the world that are particular to history—abilities that will serve students well long after the course material has faded from memory. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes shared the stage with moderator and AHA Teaching Division Councilor Trinidad Gonzales (South Texas Coll.) in a frank and wide-ranging conversation about how policies create the framework for faculty members’ work with students. Those with expertise in the state’s core curricula presented on dual-enrollment programs, compared introductory courses across institutional types, and highlighted the need for proactive collaboration across educational levels.

On the second day, Emilio Zamora (Univ. of Texas at Austin) gave an address on how and why we should invite students to develop historical empathy, with an emphasis on using oral history in gateway courses.

Attendees had several opportunities for small-group conversations. During these discussions, participants shared methods for teaching any of the lower division courses described in the state’s course manual (such as US, Texas, Mexican American, and African American history, as well as world and Western civilizations). They also discussed strategies for teaching students to use primary sources, assessing learning outcomes, and incorporating creative assignments. (This is also the topic of the Undergraduate Teaching Workshop at the 2016 AHA annual meeting, so check for more information on how you can join us for this special “assignment charrette” in Atlanta this January.)

We are pleased to offer readers several perspectives on this energizing and collegial event; watch AHA Today for upcoming posts, and feel free to join the discussion at any time with your own thoughts on teaching by leaving comments on this post or by participating in the Teaching and Learning group on AHA Communities.

For more updates from this and other AHA Tuning events, follow the new hash tag: #AHATuning

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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