Much like my research, my teaching focuses on building critiques of historical formations that we often take as given and natural. My goal is for students to understand historical narratives, and the ways that they are deployed, in order to think critically about them. I focus my assignments on developing students’ ability to construct such a critique through close readings of primary and secondary sources. I aim for students to consider the historical roots of the ideas they hold about the topic of the course and think about what historical contingencies shaped the framework of their own knowledge and beliefs on the subject. My greatest strength as a teacher is my ability to foster an open classroom dynamic in which students feel free to ask questions about the material. As the historical subfields I teach are often remote from students’ personal experiences, I believe it is particularly important to create an environment in which students can grapple with difficult concepts. Students have praised me for my willingness to allow them to explore the important issues of my courses in a relaxed, yet rigorous, environment and for my “masterful” management of course discussions of complex ideas. I want students to explore important ideas in historical scholarship in ways that make sense to them. I believe in giving them space to explore particular topics covered by the larger umbrella of a course according to their own interests.
My assignments focus on developing students’ ability to construct such a critique through close readings of primary and secondary sources. In my course on revolutionary Europe, I discuss the ways in which the historiography of previous revolutions became an important factor in many 19th– and 20th-century European revolutions. I then asked students to build arguments about the ways in which revolutionary histories became part of later political claims. I ask students to consider the historical roots of the ideas they hold about the topic of the course and think about what historical contingencies shaped the framework of their own knowledge and beliefs on the subject. I assess student learning with thesis-driven writing assignments, which I begin in the early weeks of a course. My writing instruction centers on developing students’ information literacy and written communication skills. Students in my world history course work closely with me and librarians to develop a digital history research project on the WordPress platform. Students, most of whom take the class for general education credit, develop their own research questions based on their interest in a contemporary issue of their choosing, learn about secondary and primary sources, library resources for finding them, and produce a final project that combines the thesis-driven argumentation and historical evidence of a traditional research paper with skills in digital presentation and the use of open-access media. Students in my upper-division writing seminar work with their peers in a series of writing workshops with their classmates to develop more formal research papers that place local histories within a transnational framework. In my History through Film course, I ask students to develop an in-depth critique of a history film of their choosing by examining both the context in which it was made and the historical narrative it purports to tell. My students explore historiography, a topic they normally avoid in their writing, by looking at the ways in which people have deployed historical narratives for political or artistic purposes, media students feel more comfortable critiquing than academic historical works.
In sum, my pedagogy is dedicated to creating an environment in which students can comfortably explore the ways in which history is a living creation and part of ongoing cultural and political debates. I dedicate my classes to helping students understand the ways in which historians create and deploy the histories they write and creating ways for students to enter historical conversations on terms that they feel they can control.