This summer I’m working with a group of faculty at my college to study the assignments we use in courses designated part of our General Education program. This project is part of a grant that allows faculty to evaluate how well our assignments are meeting the College’s “Educated Person outcomes.” In my case I’m assessing a short (4-5 page) writing and research project that I’ve used for many years in my US History II survey course. I’ve said in previous posts that one of the best things about blogging about teaching is that I am forced to constantly reassess my own practices. This grant has amplified the benefits of that experience and helped me to focus on the clarity of my instructions to the students, my personal process of assessment, and the creation of a rubric for this specific project. This project is worth 25% of the students’ course grade. In the past I have found rubrics useful when grading lower-stakes assignments such as Discussion Board posts in online classes because they help students to see how they might improve their future discussion posts while allowing me to grade quickly and (in my view) accurately. I have not previously used a rubric to grade this particular assignment for no other reason than I had not designed an evaluation tool to use. Participating in this grant-funded project has given me the motivation needed to view the project through a new lens and I found the process of writing a rubric instructional in the sense that it forced me to identify exactly what I am looking for in my students’ work and how various degrees of those expectations may be met. In addition to assessing the students’ submissions using my newly minted rubric, I am using this opportunity to compare student work across different modes of instruction. I will be comparing work submitted by an in-person class that met in a traditional 15-week semester this past spring with that of a fully online course that is part of our summer intensive offerings (6 weeks). I’m interested to see if there are significant differences between the overall quality of work submitted in the two different time frames and modes of instruction. I’m excited to share my findings in the coming months. What’s on your teaching and learning agenda for the summer months? Please share.
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A leaked draft opinion that appears to set the stage for the reversal of Roe v. Wade has all eyes focused this week on the Supreme Court. In the coming months, no doubt, there will be an increased effort by both sides of the abortion debate to build a narrative that favors their viewpoint, especially as discussion mounts about creating a federal law. Abortion is a difficult topic for class discussion in the friendliest of times. Now with the debate about individual rights and women’s health front and center, we as historians need to help students identify sources that separate fact from rhetoric. This task is easier said than done. As anyone who has ever sought information about the history of abortion online knows, a web search on the topic opens up a minefield of misinformation and partisan viewpoints. Nonetheless, we should not ignore the uncomfortable topic out of fear that our students will disagree with each other. Rather than focusing on current events and talking-heads on 24-hour news stations, suggest that your students go back to the era in which the Roe decision was made. In other words, help them to seek out the historical context for the decision rather than debating the case with today’s political divisions. Most history teachers already embrace this approach when we cover Brown v. Board of Education as part of the post-World War II civil rights movement. We recognize that the case’s history sheds light on the blatant inequalities in American education in the 1950s and its argument in front of the Court invited a discussion of what “the founders” had intended when they wrote the Constitution. At a racially diverse community college like the one where I teach, the Brown decision often strikes a nerve with students who cannot imagine a time when they would not have been allowed to share space in a classroom. We don’t ask the students to draw battlelines between the two sides but to look at the facts (unequal buildings, teaching credentials, classroom supplies) and then to study the ruling itself. Roe v. Wade can be discussed without the vitriol if we help our students focus on the factual components available to us. Studying the Comstock Laws and Margaret Sanger’s campaign to open birth control clinics is a great place to start. Help students to locate statistical data on the number of maternal deaths by illegal abortion in the era before Roe. Help them to identify problems with the available information and why cases would have been unreported/undocumented. Ask them to evaluate who controlled that narrative and why. Finally, consider with your students the ways in which media outlets covered discussion of the case before the decision as well as reactions to the decision through newspaper and journal articles from the time period. Allowing our students to investigate the context of Roe v. Wade will help further their understanding of why the case remains important to our modern-day society and how it continues to shape public discussion about women’s health and history. My hope is that their knowledge of history will guide them in their future decision-making.
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It took two years of hide-and-seek but COVID finally caught me. Since March 2020 I’ve had my academic life upended by words like pivot, remote, and asynchronous. Somehow, through all of the classroom changes and content delivery modifications, I’ve remained healthy. Earlier in the Pandemic I suggested in a blog that faculty ask students to share their COVID stories as a way to record history as it happens. What was their experience? How did it impact their lives or their families’ lives? This blog, then, is my entry to the historical record. I’ve tried to do everything “right” during this pandemic. I’ve listened to scientists, I’ve continued to mask in stores and public places even after mandates ended. I got a second booster shot when I was eligible. Yet despite all my thinking, over-thinking and handwashing, there was nothing I could do to prevent COVID from visiting my home. After a couple days of a stuffy nose I decided, out of an abundance of caution, to stop in to our campus testing center before my 10am Tuesday class. It was only a matter of minutes before all my plans for the week ahead were canceled. A sense of fear and dread set in: while I felt ok overall, the knowledge that this virus has killed more than six million people worldwide had an immediate psychological impact on me. I was fortunate to have a mild case of COVID – a week at home, a couple boxes of tissues and a lot of Netflix hours later, I was back on campus teaching the following Tuesday. Though I wish I could say definitively that my students missed me … the closest I can come to an assessment of their feelings is that they were genuinely concerned about my health when I returned. They asked lots of questions, which led me to conclude that we as a society are far from “over” the stress of this pandemic and we are certainly not finished talking about it. Earlier this week news outlets broadcast images of airline passengers cheering the end of the mask mandate as if we as a society could claim victory over this silent killer. My students, however, when faced with discussion of the virus with someone who had recently suffered from it showed only concern. One asked if I wanted them to start masking in class again, in spite of the end of the mandate on our campus. As much as we seem to be bombarded by data about numbers and cases, there are still many people who have never experienced the virus in their own homes and who continue to harbor intense anxiety about how it could negatively impact them or their family. I’m grateful that my college is continuing to actively engage in on-campus testing. My positive test that Tuesday morning led me to test my asymptomatic son, who also turned out to be positive. Our access to testing, thankfully, kept us from our weekly visit to my severely compromised father who resides in a nursing home where spread of the virus was previously been catastrophic. As a historian I know that this pandemic will eventually morph into something similar to the yearly challenges of influenza. Until that happens, however, I will continue to encourage my students to engage with their intellectual discomfort about the virus: ask questions, read and study the data, and get tested. And most importantly, continue to feel empathy for the emotional and physical struggles of strangers. Sharing our personal experiences from this historic time is a great way to recognize the common struggles of human beings in the 21st century.
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The Student Login insights card is one of several insights in Achieve that can help you understand more about your students.
For instance, the Student Login insight card can help identify patterns of student engagement with the Achieve platform (e.g., help you identify students who are not entering into the Achieve platform in the first place).
After reviewing the Student Login insight card, if you find that some students may be disengaged or minimally engaged with the Achieve platform, these students may need additional support to appropriately seek help . Appropriate “help seeking” behaviors are important strategies that can help improve students’ learning.
“We must regularly ask, not only ‘What are you learning?’ but ‘How are you learning?’” (Weimer, 2012)
As you’ve probably noticed from firsthand experience, not all students seek help in the same way. For instance, some students seek help in order to learn (e.g., ask for hints but seek to solve the problem on their own) while others tend to seek help in order to obtain a correct or ready-made answer (1, 3, 4) .
Students who tend to be more concerned about performance may avoid seeking help or seek help in non-adaptive ways. In comparison, students who are focused on mastering concepts and self-improvement tend to seek help in more instrumental or adaptive ways and are less threatened by seeking help (4, 5, 6) .
If you’re interested in encouraging more adaptive help-seeking behaviors in your students, consider the following:
Encourage students to intentionally use feedback that is given to them. For instance, you could ask students to go back and try to re-solve a problem that they initially got incorrect then determine if and to what extent they need further assistance (7) .
Help students tolerate uncertainty. This can help students normalize occurrences of “not knowing” and help transition such occurrences into desirable intellectual challenges (8) .
Promote learning and adaptive help seeking behaviors by providing students with explanations rather than direct answers (7) .
Help students be metacognitive about their learning. Students who have stronger metacognitive skills seek help more effectively or adaptively (9) .
Ensure you are clear and explicit with students about what skills or knowledge are needed to perform a given task, successfully complete an assignment, etc. You may ask yourself “What is the task that I want my students to do?” and “What do students need to know to do it?” (4) .
Help-seeking can be associated with personal “costs” for some students. Be aware of this and try to establish classroom norms for help-seeking behaviors (e.g., rules or procedures by which students can obtain help like asking peers or interrupting lecture to ask a question) Consider leveraging technology to reduce “costs” of seeking help (4) .
Build a learning environment where students have permission to identify confusions (11)
Keep in mind, help-seeking usually requires some degree of social skills that students may need help to master. For instance, prosocial skills can be beneficial for help-seeking. But students may need some guidance in the skill of asking questions (10, 12) . Your students can use the following steps to help them ask questions:
Become aware that you need to ask a question or get help.
Decide what you would like to know more about.
Decide who to ask- someone who has the best information.
Think about different ways or words you could use to ask the question.
Decide on the right time and setting to ask the question.
Ask the question.
Weimer, M. (2012,). Deep learning vs. surface learning: Getting students to understand the difference. Retrieved from: https://www.lander.edu/sites/lander/files/Documents/About/Offices_Departments/academic-affairs/white... .
Huet N., Motak, L., & Sakdavong, J. (2016). Motivation to seek help and help efficiency in students who failed in an initial task. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 584-593.
Newman, R.S. (2002). How self-regulated learners cope with academic difficulty: the role of adaptive help-seeking. Theory into practice, 41, 132-138.
Karabenick, S. A., & Berger, J. (2013). Help seeking as a self-regulated learning strategy. In H. Bembenutty, T. J. Cleary, & A. Kitsantas (Eds.), Applications of self-regulated learning across diverse disciplines: A tribute to Barry J. Zimmerman (pp. 237-261).
Karabenick, S. A. (1998). Strategic help seeking: Implications for learning and teaching. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Karabenick, S. A. (2003). Seeking help in large college classes: A person centered approach. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 28, 37-58.
Webb, N. M., & Palincsar, A. S. (1996). Group processes in the classroom. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 841-873). Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
McCaslin, M., & Good, T. L. (1996). The informal curriculum. In D.C. Berliner & R.C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 622- 670). Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
Tobias, S., & Everson, H. T. (2002). Knowing what you know and what you don't: Further research on metacognitive knowledge monitoring (College Board Rep. No. 2002-03). College Board.
Goldstein, A. P., & McGinnis, E. (1997). Skillstreaming the adolescent: New strategies and perspectives for teaching prosocial skills. (Revised ed.). Research Press.
Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 11, 113-120.
Gall, S. N. (1981). Help-seeking: An Understudied Problem-Solving Skill in Children. Developmental Review, 1 (3), 224-246.
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Good digital platforms support all the efforts you’ve already put into your history teaching. So how is Macmillan Learning doing this with ACHIEVE? Select one super short video that speaks to you.
5 Reasons Why Achieve is Different in 1 Minute.
Teaching Students to Think Like Historians with Primary Sources
Improving Student Preparedness with History
Assignable Skills Tutorials & Reflection Activities for Students
Instructor Activity Guides in Achieve for History
Using Analytics to Identify Student Barriers
For a deeper look at Achieve for History, you can also meet with Stephen, your learning solutions specialist for history.
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With only a little more than a month of classes left in the spring semester I’m increasingly concerned about my incredibly shrinking classroom population. Pre-pandemic a full class at my community college contained 32 enrolled students. This week I have been lucky to count 10-15 students in each of my on-campus courses. It’s terribly disconcerting. Yesterday I asked students in my 1pm class “where is everyone?” The twelve present students assured me that the problem is not the professor (phew!). “All my classes are empty like this one,” a young man offered, hoping to appease my concern that students simply hate my teaching style. In one class, he continued, “only 5 of the original 20 students are still regularly coming to class.” We know that nationally the COVID pandemic has caused a decline in college enrollment. In the fall 2021 National Public Radio (NPR) reported that “ At U.S. community colleges, the freshman class is now 20.8% below the number for the freshman class in 2019." (Elissa Nadworny, “College Enrollment Plummeted During the Pandemic”) Those of us teaching in community colleges have witnessed this precipitous drop in enrollment and are seeing the negative ramifications for our students. The hallways, once so noisy that I could not teach with my door open, are nearly silent. The cafeteria used to bubble with energy and student activities; most days the space is quiet. Students interact with the receptionist at the COVID check-in point and then go silently to their classrooms. In previous semesters I regularly divided students into groups for discussions and low-stakes classroom-based projects. Being able to have 5-6 groups report to the class on their collective work and findings has provided opportunities to expand students’ perspectives of historical topics. Students benefited from meeting other people in the class and often developed collaborative relationships that helped with exam preparation. I prepped my teaching plans this semester with the hope that while the overall campus population would be smaller, individual classes would feel normal. I was unprepared for the number of students who have left mid-semester. While some have reported changing jobs necessitating a break in their academic plans, others tell me that returning to on-campus learning has been more difficult than they expected. Many dislike leaving home to attend classes after nearly two years of remote learning, while others have found that family and work responsibilities have increased dramatically due to pandemic-related changes. Those students who are coming to campus need to be encouraged to participate in the social engagement component of undergraduate education. This past week our campus hosted two events for students to discuss race relations in the United States. While attendance at the streamed event was significantly higher than the in-person, it was obvious to me as I listened to students’ questions and comments that our young people need to interact more with their peers and their professors, as well people from outside of their college communities who can offer insight into other experiences and viewpoints. The isolation of learning during the pandemic needs to be counterbalanced with encouragement to be interactive. My goal for upcoming course planning is to find more ways for my students to engage with each other, even if the numbers in the classroom are small. Suggestions welcome!
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On March 25th, 1911, a fire kills 146 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. It would become one of the most notorious tragedies in American industrial history. From the devastation stemmed new regulations that aimed to better protect the safety of factory workers.
At the time of the fire, most employees were young women immigrants that worked in true "sweatshop" conditions for extremely little pay, averaged 12 hours a day, and had no days off. It's believed that there were approximately 600 workers when the fire began. With no adequate exit doors, a hose that was rusted shut, 146 people were tragically killed from the fire, jumping, or succumbing later to injuries.
To learn more about this, check out Jo Ann Argersinger's Bedford Series book: "The Triangle Fire, 2e" here: https://www.macmillanlearning.com/college/us/product/The-Triangle-Fire/p/1319048854
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There are no dorms at the community college where I teach, which means students are intensely focused right now on the painfully high price of a gallon of gasoline. AAA puts today’s average in my state at $4.224/gallon, which is just below the reported national average of $4.237. Yesterday we looked at photographs of “Hoovervilles” in United States History II, shanty towns erected by the poor and homeless in the earliest years of the Great Depression. Our discussion was a weave of current events and history as students pointed out that the blame on President Hoover for the 1930s’ economic crisis was not unlike the sentiment of memes, gifs, and social media posts that place responsibility for today’s high gas prices on President Biden. As we reviewed some of the central causes of the Great Depression – over-lending, under consumption, bank failures, etc – it was as if tiny light bulbs were sparking over the heads of my students. Blaming Hoover for all of the economic turmoil that enveloped his administration was too simplistic. We had to look at the big picture. The big picture right now is a complicated mix of domestic and international crises, which include a pandemic that has killed more than six million people worldwide, a war with major international repercussions, and a mounting refugee crisis in Eastern Europe. Trying to help students understand all of these issues is overwhelming, especially given that many spend little to no time outside of school exploring about current events. Sharing links regularly with our students is one easy way to guide them towards credible sources and encourage them to think about world events. Here are two links I’m sharing this week: Lesson of the Day: 'The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next' (New York Times, updated 22 March 2022) provides a list of key questions for students to consider as they seek a greater understanding of the war, including material that exposes students to Ukrainian history and links to other Times articles and editorials. I particularly like the way the site encourages students to share their views of the conflict and to read ideas expressed by other young people. People’s and Government’s Choices to Help Refugees compiled by Facing History & Ourselves offers students examples of ways in which European countries have responded to the needs of Ukrainian refugees and suggests ways that students might reflect on the growing crisis. US history classes might use these examples in conjunction with a discussion of how the nation responded to the challenges faced by refugees during World War II. Finally, this week I’m encouraging all of my students to read or watch news broadcasts about the Senate hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Live Streaming of the proceedings provides an opportunity for students to evaluate how our elected officials conduct themselves in public hearings. Asking students to reflect on the kinds of questions posed to the nominee can be an interesting lens into their observations of race and gender dynamics at this critical moment in our national history. While most online news sources offer basic background on the nominee, the Alliance for Justice published a more comprehensive history of Judge Jackson’s work as a lawyer and judge on their website earlier this month. While at times it may feel as if there is simply too much happening in the world for us to introduce more content to our already over-stuffed curriculum, it is essential that we help students to view the context of today's events through the lens of history.
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Will we be seeing you at OAH 2022?
The OAH Conference on American History is the leading conference for American historians and the study of history that occurs in the Spring of every year. We invite all those interested in history to join us in Boston, March 31-April 3. Join us at booth #509 for a demo of Achieve and to request a copy of one of our History products. See you there!
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Who was the real St. Patrick? Was that legend about the snakes true? And why did so many St. Patrick's Day traditions start in America?
Dig a bit deeper into the history of St. Patrick and the origins of St. Patrick's Day HERE !
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I started my US History II class meeting a few minutes late last Thursday so that I could show my students pictures of Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square. When I entered the room that morning the group was discussing the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Many had no idea where Ukraine is and few understood the significance of it having once been a part of the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly, the Cold War that clouded my high school years has been replaced in relevance for today’s students by the War on Terror, which for more than twenty years now has dominated American foreign policy. The Lenin’s Mausoleum discussion started because I told the class that in 1989 I had the privilege of traveling to the then Soviet Union with a group of students and teachers from my suburban public high school. I shared that one of the most memorable experiences was waiting in line to pass through the Mausoleum. I can remember my seventeen-year-old self wondering if what I saw in front of me was really the physical remains of one of the founders of the Soviet Union or a wax model put in place to force citizens of the communist nation to pay homage. The students in my high school group debated the legitimacy of the body in the days that followed. We could think of no comparable memorial in the United States and its mere existence fascinated us. To our unsophisticated rationale, the willingness of the Soviet people to honor the remains of Lenin in such a public way seemed to support the arguments of American politicians that people in communist nations did not think for themselves but were, instead, puppets under the control of a brutal political ideology. Years later as a college student studying the history of the Soviet Union I learned that the reality of life under communist rule was far more complicated. I have been thinking about that tip a lot lately because in addition to the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) our guides brought us to Ukraine to witness life in a Soviet Republic. We toured the city of Kharkiv and saw evidence of Soviet military control in the region. The people were exceedingly friendly, though also desperate for any morsel of life outside of the USSR. I can remember more than once being asked to trade my sneakers or blue jeans for a cheap trinket. The cleaning woman on the overnight train was overjoyed when I gave her my (used) make-up as a tip, and an American dollar was worth far more to a street vendor than the rubles I so carefully counted. Thanks to Google I was able to quickly put pictures of the Mausoleum up on the screen for the class to view, which inevitably led to a series of questions, most of which revolved around “why”: why would a government put a long-dead body on permanent public display? Why would people wait hours to view it? And, most importantly, why did any of what I was saying relate to the current conditions in Ukraine? Truthfully, I assumed when I started my Google search that Lenin had been long buried by now considering the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. I was shocked to find that the body remains on display, a testament to the past and an era I believed had ended, which brings me to my most significant observation of my students’ curiosity: there is so much about world history that is completely disconnected to the lives of today’s students. While they can see up-to-the-minute reports of violence in Ukraine through social media feeds and 24-hour news stations, none of those sources provide the context for the horror currently being unleashed on the Ukrainian people. No social media post adequately explains why the Ukrainian people are so willing to fight, again, in defense of their sovereignty. We, as teachers and historians, must be prepared to help today’s students understand not just the timeline of the Russian invasion but the much longer history of Soviet/Russian aggression in the region. Let’s start sharing resources. Have you found a web site or digital resource that is particularly helpful in explaining the complicated history of Russia and Ukraine? Share here in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will compile a list of resources for a future blog.
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We invite you to watch "Why We Oppose Pockets for Women" A satirical poem by Alice Duer Miller, voiced by Jane Smith, is a delightful and biting satire to kick off Women's History Month. Please enjoy!
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For me, the return to campus after nearly two full years (summer and winter sessions included) of remote teaching has been exciting and somewhat turbulent. While the students are reacclimating to long-standing classroom practices (shutting off cell phones) and adapting to pandemic-related protocols (wearing a mask in class), I’m thrilled to hear my colleague lecturing in the classroom next door. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm of students who are happy to be back in the physical classroom. There seems to be an unspoken joy amongst teachers and students who relish once again being part of a group. In spite of it being my fifteenth year of teaching at the same campus, however, I can’t seem to remember which classroom to go to at 10am on Tuesdays. Twice I have impatiently waited in the hallway outside the wrong room wondering why the students were not vacating the space only to discover that the problem was entirely me. And I find myself struggling with my classroom confidence. After so much time without live human beings in front of me, I’m feeling very self-conscious. Can they hear me through the mask? Can they read my handwriting on the board? Am I talking too fast? Am I talking too loudly? These thoughts rattle through my mind as I try my best to keep students' attention on the course content. Mostly, however, I’m worried about what has been lost by the students over the past two years. At a community college the concept of preparedness and how to overcome gaps in students’ K-12 experiences is under constant discussion. The pandemic has made the challenges we have always faced even more dire and I’m making changes to my syllabus on the fly to adapt to what I perceive as students’ immediate needs. This week, for example, I’m thinking a lot about note taking in advance of the first exam. I’ve distributed a study guide and asked students to bring all of their notes to class tomorrow in hopes that we can identify deficiencies before they spend the weekend engaged in studying. I’m hopeful that by completing practice questions in small groups we can model the upcoming in-class, timed exam experience that some of my students have never experienced at the college level. Stay tuned!
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Black History, Black Stories: Share your story of inspiration!
We tasked students, instructors, and administrators to choose a historical figure or event from African American history and tell us how they draw inspiration from him/her/them/it.
Congratulations to the winners...
View Prisca's submission! View Alex's submission! View Rodeney's submission!
View Carolyn's submission! View Kerima's submission! View Jenell's submission!
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