Addressing (In)Equalities in the American History Classroom

This session will take place at the 2020 OAH Annual Meeting | Conference on American History in Washington, D.C. Read the full abstract and speaker information here.

Throughout the past decade scholars have begun taking history pedagogy more seriously. This diverse panel builds upon this discourse to help scholars and teachers think about how unequal secondary education influences the college classroom. This panel’s diversity, which includes teachers at different types of institutions throughout the country, is one of its strengths. We have come together to discuss the challenges our students face and offer better practices for reaching our students. Teaching history at the college level requires more than standing and preaching: it requires creativity as you find ways to meet your students and help them connect with the issues of the past. Each member of our panel brings their own unique history and student body, and we will share our experiences with participants. Our goal is to create a session with lively discussion so that instructors leave excited about the potential for more interactive and collaborative classrooms.

Seth Offenbach teaches world and U.S. history at Bronx Community College, a Hispanic Service Institution. One of his greatest challenges is getting students to believe that they should think critically and creatively about the past; not just offer rote memorization and names of past presidents. Earning their respect and gaining their buy-in are necessary to help build their confidence and get them engaged with the material. In addition, Offenbach has begun using game based learning to help his students engage in history like never before.

Erik Freeman is an instructor of History at Choate Rosemary Hall, an independent boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. In the privileged space of a New England boarding school like Choate, each student receives their own iPad. Because of this luxury, Freeman authored an interactive eBook serving as a supplemental text in his classroom. The eBook addresses large national themes while focusing on the local environmental, cultural, and social history of Wallingford. Although an eBook may not be a possibility in all classrooms, incorporating local environmental and social histories can personalize the broad themes of US history.

Nicole Greer Golda teaches at Ferrum College, a small liberal arts college in the rural Blue Ridge Mountains. Ferrum is unique among liberal arts colleges in that there are more male than female students, many are first generation, and nearly half of the students are Hispanic or African American. This presents wonderful classroom dynamics as students bring insights and experiences to the classroom not usually represented. Yet, this also means these students are not academically prepared for the classroom. Online gaming tools such as Kahoot!, Quizizz, and Socrative as well as unusual classroom assignments such as using video editing on cell phones to create short films or podcasts about historical events tap into areas students are more comfortable with in order to introduce more academic college skills. While some instructors may scoff at these tactics, my experience indicates that creative approaches engage students and teach them the importance of the past in our new digital age.

Patrick LaPierre teaches at SUNY Canton a two/four-year, access university offering degrees in applied fields and is one of seven technology colleges within the SUNY system. Getting students interested in history, and the liberal arts more generally, within an institution that prizes hands-on, applied learning and “real-world” relevance, is a creative task. Increasingly, this approach emphasizes how thinking (historical thinking, in particular) can be a form of “applied” learning. Through context and content assignments that correlate to the various degree programs Canton offers, team teaching with faculty from disparate fields (criminal justice) and even coffee and conversation meetings, I have focused on getting students to “infuse” historical thinking into their various disciplinary interests.

Cassie Turnipseed is the 2017 State of Mississippi Diversity Educator of the Year who uses digital and public history to personalize the past at Mississippi Valley State University, a historically black college. In particular, she links together various media such as radio broadcasts with historical content to demonstrate the ways the past informs our own understandings of self.

Together, we aim to spark conversations between and among panelists and audience members in order to think through inclusive teaching methodologies and provide a space to share strategies and activities for innovative classroom techniques.  

Posted: November 14, 2019
Tagged: Conference, Teaching, Pedagogy, Survey, Previews