My primary goal as a history teacher is to show students that the modes of interpretation and critical reading developed in class are not limited to historical studies alone. Students learn that interpretation and critical reading help us reflect on present-day understandings of the world.
In response to the global pandemic, I created a new, online course entitled "Disease through the Ages." This course examines the social and political impact that pandemics have had on societies throughout the world from ancient times to the present. Situating diseases such as leprosy, smallpox, and AIDS historically, obliges students to consider how outcasts are manifested discursively and physically through exile and quarantine. Students gained a deeper appreciation for the interconnections between disease, class, religion, and race throughout the world.
By designing and employing group activities throughout the semester, my physical and online classrooms transform into a place of congeniality where students can discuss the course’s key themes while also engaging in critical thinking. Link to icebreaker Building a sense of camaraderie early in the semester creates a sense of belonging among students and facilitates peer-to-peer feedback for subsequent assignments.
Many of the in-class activities include the examination of primary sources for historical context. When students engage with a historical document for the first time, they are encouraged to suspend judgement and set aside their own preconceptions. Link to document
Suspending judgement helps students to read primary sources closely and appreciate historical context. By reading a document in this way, students begin to notice the gap between their twenty-first century perspectives and those of their historical subjects. This awareness generates historically-grounded interpretations of the past. Finally, students apply their interpretations of primary sources by consulting secondary sources to see whether their hypotheses affirm or contradict those of other historians. Students are able to demonstrate in-depth primary source analysis and assess historical claims and arguments with greater precision by the end of the semester.
With respect to the writing process, students learn how to modify their original hypothesis and revise their lines of argumentation. Peer-to-peer feedback is key to revising as it pushes students to articulate their interpretations to their classmates, forcing them to synthesize their ideas while, simultaneously, holding them accountable. Dispelling the notion of the perfect first draft helps students to see their own work from someone else's vantage point. Students grow in confidence and enthusiasm thanks to having created a close-knit writing community. By combining socially oriented group activities with a focused pedagogical approach, students’ ability to write critical essays increases dramatically. Link to activity.
Although I devise thoughtful lessons before the start of each semester, I revise my lesson plans based on students’ needs. Midway through the semester, I ask students whether the course has met their expectations and what suggestions they have for improvement. Such feedback allows me to regularly tailor the course’s content and analytical focus to the needs of students.
At Duke University, I have designed and taught three courses as an instructor of record: Writing 101 Sex, Power, and Conquest (Fall 2018 - evaluation), History 326 Colonial Latin America (Summer 2019 - evaluation), and History 190s Disease through the Ages (Summer 2020 - evaluation). I have also served as a teaching assistant for five semesters. In all of my courses, I liaised with the major professor and teaching assistants each week. Together, we exchanged ideas regarding our individual sections and discussed marking standards to streamline the grading process. I have improved my pedagogical expertise further by enrolling in teaching-oriented courses such as Focusing on Teaching and Pedagogy (Hist 703), Fundamentals of College Teaching (GS 750), and College Teaching, Diverse Learners & Contentious Issues (GS 767).
This experience has allowed me to refine my approach to teaching by creating assignments that promote active learning. As I continue to teach, I will look for new ways to encourage students to pursue creative engagement with the narratives and ideas that structure the world in which they live.