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 to reflect on present-day understandings of the world.
In the wake of COVID, 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. Students gain a deeper appreciation for the interconnections between disease, class, religion, and race throughout the world.
By assigning group activities throughout the semester, my physical and online classrooms transform into congenial spaces where students can discuss the course’s key themes and improve their critical thinking skills. 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 in subsequent assignments.
My in-class activities include the examination of primary sources for contextual purposes. When students engage with historical documents for the first time, they are encouraged to suspend judgement and set aside their own preconceptions.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 to appreciate the historical background in which they were created. 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 more nuanced interpretations of the past. Finally, students apply their interpretations of primary sources to scholarly publications to see whether their hypotheses affirm or contradict those of other historians. By the end of the semester, students are able to demonstrate solid primary source analysis and assess historical claims with greater precision.
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. 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 community through pair work and group activities. This pedagogical approach greatly enhances students’ ability to write critical essays at the university level. 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 if the course has met their expectations and whether they have suggestions for improvement. This feedback helps me to tailor the course for the benefit of the 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 these courses, I liaised with the major professor. Together, we exchanged ideas regarding 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 create and implement assignments that promote active learning. As I continue to teach, I will look for new ways to encourage students to pursue sustained engagement with the historical narratives and ideas that structure the world in which they live.