AHA Today

Tuning Project Releases Department Materials: New Resources for Teaching History

Julia Brookins | May 4, 2015

Today we are pleased to launch curricular materials developed by faculty participating in the AHA’s Tuning project. Since 2012, the Tuning project has provided a collaborative forum and process for history faculty to articulate the central skills students gain by studying history. Participating faculty members then work internally to make sure their shared learning priorities are embedded in their program requirements, courses, syllabi, and individual assignments. Faculty participants also work externally to communicate those disciplinary skills to students, parents, colleagues across the campus, and members of their local communities, including employers. By soliciting feedback from these groups, faculty can refine their message to better promote the value of historical study for students and society in terms of personal development, civic engagement, and career potential. We hope these curricular resources will help to broaden knowledge of tuning-like processes in teaching history and encourage more faculty to undertake a revitalization of their own history programs to attract, educate, and retain students.

The Tuning project has brought together history faculty at two- and four-year colleges and universities around the country to consider what students understand, know, and are able to do when they successfully complete a history degree at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level. To date, the project has engaged more than 160 faculty historians from across the United States.

While the Discipline Core statement that was produced as part of the project articulates areas of commonality across degree programs, it has always been a central goal of this process for faculty at participating departments to develop their own, unique statements about what is distinctive to their programs. Primary responsibility for implementing the steps of the Tuning process rests with local faculty.

These newly published documents include descriptions of history degree programs across the country at different types of institutions, and they reflect how the elements of a tuning process can be adapted to very different local contexts and needs. Most of these documents are “Degree Specifications,” which communicate the purpose and characteristics of each program, what students can expect to learn, and what careers graduates tend to pursue. The process of creating these statements differed from place to place, but in general faculty collaborated on identifying goals for their degree programs. There are many excellent examples, but for a taste of the variety, you can compare details offered in the BA degree profile from Lendol Calder at Augustana College in Illinois with the BA degree profile from Juliana Barr at the University of Florida. Would such a statement be helpful to students at your alma mater? What would it say?

In addition to the Degree Specifications, available tuning resources reflect examples from the range of activities that participants decided to pursue as part of this flexible process. You can view learning objectives for individual courses such as “Early American History” at Delta College (Michigan), a sample rubric from New College of Florida, major requirements at Regis University (Denver), a brochure for students at California State University Long Beach, and other unique resources. At Alverno College in Milwaukee, for instance, faculty used rigorous research methods in conducting interviews with many of their alumnae in order to understand how their history degrees had served them in their subsequent civic and professional lives. Other history faculty also conducted alumni surveys using a variety of instruments and methods (e.g. Augsburg College survey, Bergen Community College survey, and Carleton College survey).

We expect that site visitors teaching history will be able to use these resources to catalyze further discussion about their own programs and the shared and distinctive aspects of history education in different local settings. For other visitors, these documents serve as evidence of possibilities—the wide range of skills, understanding, and knowledge that is accessible through the history discipline today.

We hope that AHA members and others will use these resources to continue the conversation about the role of historical study in education and the contributions that our discipline can make to society, not only through professional historians but also through the many students who experience the benefits of a well-considered history curriculum on their way to graduation.

We thank all the participants who have shared the results of their hard work with the AHA. We also welcome any reader comments on these resources. Please submit your comments on this blog post, or to the Teaching and Learning History group at AHA Communities.

Check out the complete Tuning Resources.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.


Tags: AHA Today Teaching & Learning Tuning the History Discipline Resources and Strategies


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