Published Date

March 16, 1998

Resource Type

For the Classroom


Teaching Methods

AHA Topics

Teaching & Learning, Undergraduate Education


United States

by José Cuello

José Cuello is an associate professor of history and director of the Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies in the College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs at Wayne State University. Copyright and contact information is available at the end of this document.


Author’s Preface: Why It Matters to Historians 
Author’s Introduction: When the Paradigm Shifts, We Reinvent Ourselves

1. From Retention to Empowerment: Student Motivation as the Key to Academic Success
Chapter summary: Programs in social engineering, if they are to be successful, need the active, committed cooperation of the individuals who would be socially engineered.

2. I Must Want a University Education: Basic Questions I Must Answer to Survive and Succeed at the University
Chapter summary: Details are important, and in any important endeavor there are many details. If you have enough nails, you can shoe the horse so the knight can ride to warn the king of the enemy’s approach and save the kingdom. On the other hand, as the saying goes, “For want of a nail the kingdom was lost.”

3. The Fundamentals for Studying a Liberal Arts Subject, with the History of Mexico as an Example
Chapter summary: If you are going to do anything, do it well. Know the rules of the game and play your hardest. You can only play a superior game if you adhere to the fundamentals. You can only make your own rules when you play so well that you transcend the normal boundaries of the game.

4. When the University Becomes a Jungle Full of Stress: Basic Survival Techniques and Strategies for the Proactive Learner
Chapter summary: The University is part of modern life and can be seen as an educational jungle all its own. When life becomes a jungle, you cannot afford to be caught playing the tourist.

5. A Student Code for Academic Success
Chapter summary: Formalize your values and goals in life–or in an important life situation–into a personal code that is brief but captures the essence of what you want to accomplish.

6. Do You Want to Go Higher? Empowering Yourself for and in Graduate School
Chapter summary: Look for the empowerment of understanding and insight–why things are and how they work–and your mind will soar like an eagle in flight. This chapter includes what schools will look for when you apply and the qualities that will make you a success in graduate or professional school.

Appendix: The Chicano-Boricua Studies Student-Parent Contract


José Cuello’s Power Tools for Teaching and Learning at an Urban-Access University boldly faces up to some of the widespread pedagogical problems present in many of our K-16 schools. Students in our history courses–and in other disciplines as well–often lack adequate preparation or the necessary cultural context to be successful. More important, they also lack motivation or fail to understand the skills (educational and personal) that are necessary to succeed in their studies. Professor Cuello’s article makes valuable contributions to the current debate on history teaching in particular and on general education as a whole in U.S. public institutions and inner cities. He suggests ways of directly engaging students, teachers, and parents in the making of a supportive learning environment. His approach calls on students to take charge of their academic lives and to work together with faculty and family in the learning process. Cuello’s proposals are worthy of attention. His overall goals and methods–the power tools–for empowering students are aimed at minority students and public urban institutions, but his suggestions can be successfully applied to a variety of educational experiences.

Copyright and contact information

© José Cuello 1997

Last revised March 16, 1998

Wayne State University
College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs
Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies
656 W. Kirby
Room 3324 Faculty Administration Building
Detroit, MI 48202
Tel. (313) 577-4378
Fax (313) 577-1274

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