You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But . . .

Last year, I introduced a new assignment. Students in the U.S. survey were required to meet with me for five minutes during the first two weeks of class. We could talk about any topic, including the class. For a five-minute investment, students earned ten points (out of 600 pts. total in the course). This semester, …

Clickers in the History Classroom

During our school-wide in-service meeting, my colleague Sarah Pierce made a presentation on clickers in the classroom. I had talked to her previously about observing their use in one of her courses, but our schedules conflicted, and I never made it. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with what Sarah showed us. The …

Teaching at Your Alma Mater

Twenty years ago, I started my freshman year at Cumberland University. Sixteen years later, I returned to take a faculty position. Teaching at your alma mater can be difficult. Former professors become your colleagues, and you have to overcome the reluctance to challenge or contradict your mentors. You also have to confront suspicions about academic …

Edutainment vs. Education: A False Dichotomy?

Last September, I wrote this about teaching as performance: I should also point out that performance is no substitute for rigor and quality. Performance in the classroom can encourage enthusiasm about a subject among students, but enthusiasm should not be the most important objective. Performance should be a tool, much like technology, to grab students’ attention in …

Favorite Final Exam Story?

You can also share a story about your experience as a student, but I'm asking specifically for stories as a professor. Mind your FERPA manners, though. My favorite story is from my time as a T.A. at Mississippi State. At the time, history department T.A.s taught their own courses, so we made up our own …

The Uncoverage Approach to the U.S. Survey Course

Jonathan Rees at More or Less Bunk recently posted about the "uncoverage" model of teaching the U.S. history survey course. In their 2001 article on the coverage model,  Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker describe the traditional approach to the U.S. survey course: The dominant approach to teaching the history “survey” (as the introductory …

How Useful Is a Course on Conspiracy Theories?

The conspiracy theories course wrapped up yesterday with a discussion about the differences between actual conspiracies and conspiracy theories and the students' evaluation of the most influential conspiracy theories. We closed out by listening to songs by 2Pac and Green Day that contain conspiratorial allusions and claims. Based on students' reactions and my own observations, …

Depressing Students

As I was leaving class Tuesday, one of my students good-naturedly quipped, "So, what are you going to make us feel bad about next class?" This student was referring to the past week of classes, during which we have discussed lynching photographs on the Without Sanctuary website and the mythology of the Old West and watched clips from Bamboozled (the …

What Does a History Course on Conspiracy Theories Look Like?

As far as I know, I am one of only four history professors in the U.S. to offer a course on conspiracy theories. Kathy Olmsted, Robert Goldberg, and Jeff Pasley are the other three I know of. Pasley even has a website devoted to his course. (Update: Sara Morris alerted me to Jonathan Earle's course on the history of …