Redesigning an Intro Course: Lessons from History Gateways

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Teaching

Saturday, April 17, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Lightning Round

Tags: General/Survey; Professional Development; Teaching and Pedagogy


What should an introductory course in history look like? What is its purpose? If this is the only chance a student will have to learn what it means to think historically, what should they learn? And what strategies can faculty use to improve student learning for all students? This lightning round will showcase strategies and questions from faculty participating in the American Historical Association’s History Gateways initiative. History Gateways aims to rethink introductory college-level history courses to better serve students from all backgrounds and align more effectively with the future needs of a complex society. The lightning round will be chaired by two experts in history teaching and learning. Following the short presentations, attendees will have an opportunity to interact with presenters in small groups and discuss how and why they might implement similar strategies in their own classrooms.

Papers Presented

Creating an Inclusive Classroom

As undergraduate populations become increasingly diverse, early American History courses can be more engaging if we focus on historical actors and events that resonate better with our students. This particular portion of the lightning round will focus on ways to broaden your historical narrative and course assignments to pique the interests of students and allow students to see themselves in the stories we tell.

Presented By
Kelly Y. Hopkins, University of Houston

From Content to Concept: Using Primary Sources to Explore Themes in U.S. History

This short presentation will discuss the benefits and challenges involved in discarding textbooks and lectures and instead using primary sources to explore key themes in U.S. History through active learning. I will use one unit from my course to illustrate how a focus on themes allows us to consider how concepts endure and evolve over time. I will explain how I use primary sources, collaborative learning, low-stakes writing, and reflections to explore these themes and to promote metacognitive skills, rather than strictly content-based knowledge.

Presented By
Sandra M. Frink, Roosevelt University

Making History Personal

This lightning talk will examine the efforts of Purdue University Northwest History faculty to address retention concerns in its gateways courses by implementing new practices, modifying existing lessons and aligning learning outcomes with assignments in order for students and faculty to capitalize on the learning experience.

Presented By
Kathleen Ann Tobin, Purdue University NorthwestWendy St. JeanKenneth Ralph Kincaid, Purdue University Northwest

Redesigning the Introductory Survey at a Research University

The presentation will focus on challenges and strategies developed by a cohort of faculty in a research university. The cohort engage each other and the rest of the department in an environment that primarily rewards research output. Examples of challenges faced in implementing the AHA Gateway program as well as classroom successes will be discussed.

Presented By
Raul Alberto Ramos, University of Houston

High Impact Practices in the Classroom

This presentation will focus on using art, artifacts, and material culture to engage students and guide active learning in U.S. History survey courses.

Presented By
Theresa Rae Jach, Houston Community College Northwest

From the Alamo to the Astros: Rethinking the Texas History Survey

It’s no secret that Texans are proud of their history. In the Spring 1947 edition of the Southwest Review, Texas Governor Beauford Jester wrote that Texans were “A Race of People” who “believe that Texas and things Texan are largest and best.” John Steinbeck wrote, “Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.” In the 1950s, the state legislature followed the recommendation of a conservative red-baiting historian and made Texas and U.S. History and government mandatory in the state’s public school and college curriculum. Today, Texas history is still an option in the state’s mandated higher education History curriculum, yet the three major textbooks are largely narrative with almost no pedagogical student support. The focus is on stories of the Lone Star past, and not on developing important student success nor 20th century skills. This presentation will look at efforts at redesigning the course to emphasize developing historical skills, critical thinking, and primary source analysis.

Presented By
Gene B. Preuss, University of Houston‒Downtown

Session Participants

Chair: Daniel J. McInerney, Utah State University
Daniel McInerney is professor emeritus in the Department of History at Utah State University. He teaches a range of courses from the introductory survey to the Civil War to capstone and graduate classes. Dan did his undergraduate work at Manhattan College in New York City and completed graduate studies at Purdue University in the American Studies program. His research centers on nineteenth-century U.S. history, focusing on social reform. Dan is the author of two books: The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition and Republican Thought (1994) and The Travellers' History of the United States (2000). Translations of the latter work appeared in 2009 in both Russian (Midgard Press) and Chinese (Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press). He is now returning to work on a study of 19th-century techniques for memory improvement.
Since 2009, Dan has focused on projects related to teaching and learning, working with the global “Tuning” initiative in the state of Utah, with the American Historical Association, as a member of the Tuning USA Advisory Board, and with the E.U.-U.S. Tuning Board. He has spoken to audiences involved in Tuning across the U.S. as well as in Belgium, Spain, Brazil, and Japan. In 2014, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment named him one of 15 “coaches” on the national Degree Qualifications Profile/Tuning project, providing one-day workshops on approaches to the assessment of student learning. Dan now serves as an adviser on the AHA’s History gateways project. He also holds positions on the advisory board of Liberal Education and the Tuning Journal for Higher Education. Dan’s articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, the National Institute for Educational Policy Research Bulletin (Japan), Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (U.K.), The History Teacher, and World History Connected.

Chair: Nancy L. Quam-Wickham, California State University, Long Beach
Dr. Nancy Quam-Wickham is a Professor of History at California State University, Long Beach. She served as Editor, The History Teacher (2000-2006), History Graduate program advisor (2000-2005), and History Department chair (2005-2015). Her book, A Day in the Life of an American Worker, coedited with Ben Tyler Elliott, was published in December 2019. The author of many articles in a wide variety of journals and edited collections, her historical research interests emphasize the connections between environmental change and labor history. Her current work, The Global Ship, is a digital humanities project in which she traces the global impact of a single whaling vessel during the 19th century. At CSULB, she teaches introductory courses in U.S. history, as well as upper-division courses in gender, environmental, and California history and in historical methods, history and theory, and senior research. In 2020, she is teaching advanced courses in the University Honors Program.

In areas of practice, over the last decade she has been involved in a number of state and national K-16 initiatives, including those of the American Historical Association (Participant, Tuning the History Degree; Advisory Board Member, History Gateways Initiative); Member, Measuring College Learning Initiative, Social Science Research Council; Disciplinary Advisor, John Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education; Campus Coach, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (University of Illinois); Panelist and Reviewer, History-Social Science, Instructional Quality Commission, California Department of Education, and participant in the Long Beach Promise. Additionally, NPR's Educate podcast recently featured her work in the classroom

Presenter: Sandra M. Frink, Roosevelt University
Sandra Frink is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. She is a cultural historian of the United States who specializes in the study of gender, race, ethnicity, and urban public space. She teaches courses on women’s history, race and slavery, popular culture, oral history, and on the history and memory of the Civil War. Her current research analyzes identity, race, and culture in the urban streets of nineteenth-century New Orleans.

Presenter: Kelly Y. Hopkins, University of Houston
Kelly Hopkins is an Instructional Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston where she regularly teaches the first half of American History, as well as courses in Colonial North America and Native North America. Her research investigates the innovative responses of the Five, and later Six, Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) to a period of rapid colonial and market expansion by both the English/British and French into their southeastern Great Lakes homeland. Her manuscript, Recreating Iroquoia: Haudenosaunee Settlement Patterns, Subsistence Strategies, and Environmental Use, 1630-1783, combines the fields of Native American, British and French Colonial American, Environmental, and Atlantic World history to investigate the colonial experience of European colonists and Native Americans, how each group confronted their new situation, how they interacted with diverse neighbors and lived within their local environment, and the legacies of their experiences. Kelly Hopkins is part of the American Historical Association/Gardner Institute Gateways to Completion initiative to redesign the introductory history courses to make them more accessible and engaging for undergraduate students.

Presenter: Theresa Rae Jach, Houston Community College Northwest
Theresa Jach teaches at Houston Community College. Her research includes the history of prisons and she selected publications include:

• “A Confederate Inkstand in England: Pro-Confederate Cotton Elites in Liverpool,” A Diverse History: Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest before 1900, The David B. Warren Symposium, Volumen 7, co-authored with Marjorie Denise Brown, 2019
• Co-Editor and contributor, Incarcerated Women: A History of Struggles, Oppression, and Resistance in American Prisons, Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield, 2017
• Huntsville Penitentiary, Arcadia Publishing, 2013
• Richmond Texas, with Clinton Drake, Arcadia Publishing 2014
• “Reform v. Reality in the Texas Progressive Era Prison,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, January 2006.
• Book review of Horrell Wars: Feuding in Texas and Mexico by David Johnson, in Journal of Southern History, August 2015, Vol. LLLXI, No. 3.

Presenter: Kenneth Ralph Kincaid, Purdue University Northwest
Kenneth Kincaid is associate professor at Purdue University Northwest, where he teaches courses on Latin American, world, and U.S. history

Presenter: Gene B. Preuss, University of Houston‒Downtown
Gene B. Preuss, Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston-Downtown, where in addition to teaching courses on the history of Texas, Mexican-Americas, Education, and the American West. He holds a PhD in History from Texas Tech University.
He is an active member of the Texas State Historical Association, past president of the East Texas Historical Association, and of the H-Net Council. He is author of “To Get a Better School System”: One Hundred Years of School Reform in Texas. (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), and co-authored with former US Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, A Kineño’s Journey: On Family, Learning, and Public Service (Texas Tech University Press, 2016).
He co-authored an article in the July 2019 Southwestern Historical Quarterly with Keith Volanto, “When was the Republic of Texas No More?: Revisiting the Annexation of Texas,” and has book chapters in other publications on Oral History and Hurricane Katrina, and the history of Texas public education and minorities.

Presenter: Raul Alberto Ramos, University of Houston
Dr. Raúl A. Ramos is an American historian and author with expertise in borderlands history, Mexican American history and the history of Texas. Ramos is Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston. He received his A.B. in History and Latin American Studies from Princeton University in 1989 and his Ph.D. in History from Yale University in 1999. He joined the History faculty at the University of Houston in 2002 from his position as an assistant professor in History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Ramos was a Fellow at the William Clements Center and for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University from 2000-2001. Professor Ramos is author of the award-winning book, “Beyond the Alamo: Forging Mexican Ethnicity in San Antonio, 1821-1861.” (University of North Carolina Press, 2008) The book won the 2009 T.R. Fehrenbach Award from the Texas Historical Commission. His current research spans the frontier from 19th-century Florida to early 20th-century Los Angeles, examining the ways communities reconstruct their past even while looking to the future. His courses concentrate on historical processes such as conquest, colonization, social formations, migrations and cultural change.

Presenter: Wendy St. Jean
Dr. St. Jean does research on Southeastern Indians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her teaching interests include Native American history, environmental history, the history of the frontier, and American women, spanning the colonial period, early republic and the Civil War. Her work has been published in the Journal of Illinois History, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, and Arkansas Historical Quarterly.

Proposal Submitter Only: Emily Swafford, American Historical Association
Emily Swafford is director of academic and professional affairs at the American Historical Association. She directs the AHA's Mellon-funded Career Diversity for Historians and History Gateways initiatives and staffs the AHA's Teaching and Professional Divisions. As part of this work, she leads the AHA's efforts to address issues in teaching and learning in history from K-12 to doctoral education, as well as the variety of professional issues faced by historians. She earned a PhD in history at the University of Chicago and is working on a book on the origins of U.S. military family policy in the early Cold War.

Presenter: Kathleen Ann Tobin, Purdue University Northwest
Dr. Kathleen Tobin is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History and Philosophy at Purdue University Northwest. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and currently teaches U.S. social history and modern Latin America. Her recent research addresses population issues and birth control history, and she recently published “People, Not Property: Population Issues and the Neutron Bomb,” in Cold War History (2016) and a chapter entitled “Manning the Enemy: U.S. Perspectives on International Birth Rates during the Cold War,” in Sex, Gender, and the Cold War: A Global Perspective edited by Philip Muehlenbeck (Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 2017). Her books include The American Religious Debate over Birth Control, 1907-1937 and Politics and Population Control, A Documentary History.