Teaching and Learning Narrative History 133: Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction Carl Guarneri, History Department

Assessment Artifacts for Learning Outcomes

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Assessment Artifacts for Learning Outcomes

In History 133 student learning in each of the core outcomes will be assessed through a variety of tools. Please see the detailed list of writing and research assignments on pp. 2-3 of the course syllabus as well as the description of the Document Report assignment appended to the syllabus. The course’s three exams consist of two parts. The first part asks students to identify, describe, and relate the significance of key events, terms, laws, or people in U.S. immigration and ethnic history. By relating each identification term to its period and discussing its significance for a key issue of that era, these ID questions are designed especially to assess Learning Outcome #1 of the Social, Historical, and Cultural Understanding learning goal. The second part of each exam is an essay question that asks students to construct a coherent and persuasive historical interpretation of an event or development, such as the failure of political compromise over territorial slavery in the 1850s, the South’s decision to secede from the Union, or the outcome of the Civil War, by using supporting factual evidence and by comparing or assessing alternative explanations. These essays are addressed to Learning Outcome #2 of the Social, Historical, and Cultural Understanding learning goal.

The three papers required in History 133 (see syllabus) require students to use course sources to develop and/or evaluate historical generalizations and interpretations. The paper on slave narratives uses rich autobiographical documents from which students select relevant information and use it to interpret the roles and experiences involved in the slave system (Learning Outcomes #3a and 3b). The paper on Lincoln and Emancipation uses both documents and historical accounts to have students understand the complexity of historical explanation and construct a consistent and persuasive interpretation of their own (Learning Outcomes #2 and 3b). The paper on Guerrilla Warfare in the Confederate South is a particularly challenging exercise in discerning the causes, nature, and significance of a complex and little-known local event (Learning Outcomes # 2 and 3b). It should be clear from this description that the paper assignments not only use different kinds of sources and call out somewhat different skills from students, but they also are “scaffolded” to progress from relatively elementary historical analysis (selection and generalization) to more sophisticated tasks of interpretation.

The film analysis or museum report, which asks students to compare popular and public versions of Civil War history against scholarly narratives, adds an important dimension to Learning Outcome #3b of the Social, Historical, Cultural Understanding learning goal by comparing historical methodology as practiced in the discipline with the aims and standards of more popular presentations of history. This assignment, along with an exercise in which students locate and discuss a relevant historical document (a soldier’s Civil War letter), addresses Learning Outcome #3a. Students’ written and oral Document Reports, in which they choose, assess, and interpret documents relating to an episode in this time period, provide a more extended opportunity for students to select evidence and use it to interpret history, which is addressed in Learning Outcomes #3a and #3b. The student presentations are scheduled for the day when the class discusses the larger topic that their document illuminates, and their oral report contributes a case study to our discussion. (See the History 133 Document Presentations schedule, which is appended to the course syllabus.) The Document Essay assignment prompt, which is appended to the syllabus, asks students to interpret their document through a series of questions about its author, audience, occasion, intent, argument, and connotative meaning.

Finally, the class participation component of the course grade, which includes workbook exercises and reading-response homework as well as in-class discussion, encompasses all the above learning objectives, alternating among them according to the topic of the day.

Department’s disciplinary expertise

This course is taught in the History department, which is the disciplinary home of the “historical” part of “Social, Historical, and Cultural Understanding.” All faculty members of the History department have doctoral degrees in history and have produced substantial scholarly writings in their fields. Two are authors or editors of the textbooks they use in some of their courses.

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