Unit Goals and Suggestions for Evaluation

Goals. This unit presents material focused on a particular set of historical dynamics with the requirement to process that information according to the methods that historians use. For this reason both the objectives and the evaluation of this unit should pay attention both to historical content and to the development and demonstration of analytical skills. The material is not intended as a complete compilation of the evidence needed to make a thorough analysis of the issues. Instead it reflects the real experience of historians who often find that their early reviews of a new issue leave them with more questions than answers.

Content. This unit presents a field of historical sources to enable students to examine the dynamic interactions which have helped shape post-colonial Africa by seeing how these dynamics worked out within Nigeria in the events associated with the Biafran secessionist movement of 1966-1970. At the same time this information gives students the opportunity to learn more about the meaning and impact of European ideas, interests and actions outside of Europe. These dynamics include

  • the competing aspirations and global understandings of newly independent peoples; 
  • the interplay between traditional values and the demands of modern national and international institutions; 
  • the opportunities and challenges of building a nation on the foundations left by a colonial power; 
  • the long term impact of colonial policies; 
  • differing estimates of the needs of people in the colonies as expressed by Europeans and within African communities;
  • the rationale for and the impact of the decision to transform an imperial relationship into a colonial one.


Students are presented with historical sources arranged by topic and era; this information is accompanied by some questions and suggestions for dealing with these sources. In addition students will be asked to develop their own questions in order to mine these materials more fully and to determine relationships among the different readings. Although students could work through this material as individuals, one goal of this unit is to create the possibility for students to work collaboratively in teams. If this approach is taken, student contributions to the effectiveness of their team should be evaluated. Faculty will have to assess the abilities of their students to determine how to organize and, if necessary, teach the skills needed for team work. This unit is structured so that students will have the opportunity to develop these skills over time.

Where Does This Unit Fit in My Course?

This unit focuses on events beginning with the onset of the "new imperialism" as some textbooks call it with a glance at earlier issues. On the other hand this unit works its way backwards (chronologically) from the 1960s to imperialism. One option for implementation is to schedule this unit to be the culmination of the course with the last student work turned in at that moment. Alternatively, this material could be started much earlier and culminate at the moment when the course is covering imperialism, World War I and the Wilsonian ideals expressed at the Versailles peace conference.

Evaluation. If students work collaboratively in teams, they will undoubtedly reach different understandings of the meaning and relative importance of the forces at play in the postcolonial world. This situation means that it is not possible to reduce the knowledge gained in this unit to a common body of facts that will be mastered by everyone. Whether students work individually or in teams, the evaluation of learning achieved in this unit is, to a significant degree, tied to the thought processes developed and used in the study of these materials.

Evaluation of student performance can include:

  • A "team" grade assigned by team members for the effort and quality of work of each member of the team.
  • An evaluation of the work and insight of individuals according to the quality of their "postings" on electronic bulletin boards.
  • A final debate within teams or between teams where they test their understandings against the understandings of the dynamics developed by other teams.
  • An individual or group paper recounting their conclusions and how they reached them.
  • A journal maintained throughout the process.

Any of these forms of evaluation should require students to show how they reached their conclusions and how their work is supported by the evidence. The final evaluation could also include a statement of unanswered questions, an evaluation of the evidence presented, and a list of additional topics/issues that need to be studied.