Tuesday, January 6, 2009


If you are a college professor, Lendol Calder wants you to rethink everything you do in the traditional United States survey course. He writes:

The history survey is changing. Everything about the course is changing—teachers, students, content, technologies—except for the survey’s traditional pedagogies, which are optimism and denial. Optimism—for an instructional design that equates teaching with mentioning. Denial—of a mountain of evidence making plain the inadequacies of such an approach. Teachers struggle against pedagogical inertia; students endure the old unreliables of “stand and deliver” and “lecture and discussion.” Knowing what we now know about how people learn, isn’t it time historians developed a distinctive pedagogy for surveys making use of history’s own cognitive “signature”?

I am guilty of nearly everything Lendol is writing about here. Perhaps you are too. Whatever the case, his website is worth a long look. I would also recommend his 2006 article in the Journal of American History.