Primary Sources Added To History 200 Curriculum

A team of History 200 teachers has been working to improve the teaching materials and resources used in the Early Modern World course. Last year, the teachers, led by Frank Tipton, Instructor in History, added primary sources such as letters and diaries to the resources utilized in class. The new packet was distributed to all of the History 200 students this fall. The transformation began last year with trial-run classes in a couple of the course sessions, so that the teachers could see what worked and what did not. Those teachers involved in the early experimentation were open to comments from their students and implemented that feedback into this year’s packet. Even though all of the teachers have been teaching the same expanded material since the beginning of the year, the faculty continues to meet every two weeks to discuss the changes. This is now the second year that the packet has been changed substantially. “The course will continue to evolve,” said Tipton. The updated packet is a result of the department’s effort to stay on top of the field. According to Tipton, the time period of 1500 to 1800, which History 200 focuses on, is a “hot topic” among historians right now. He noted that there are currently many compositions being written about the period. The course also now includes more interactive ways for the students to learn the material. Tipton described a new classroom activity as a recreation of the Valladolid debate. During this mock debate, students argue over the Spanish treatment of the American Indians from realistic viewpoints. Additionally, History 200 now has optional field trips to places such as the Peabody Essex Museum as opportunities to visualize the material learned in class. Chair of the History Department Peter Drench described History 200 as “a highly conceptual course.” He emphasized the fact that the teachers want to illustrate the United States as part of the world, not separate from it. Drench said that the course adjustments present ideas in a way that is more accessible to students. “[We] want to challenge students, not defeat them,” he said. Since History 200 is only one term, it is considered a link between the two year-long courses of History 100 and History 300. According to Drench, the faculty wanted to create a seamless and coherent course sequence. The team strove for a balance of skills and content to reach the desired cumulative effect. “We wanted things to fit together like legos,” Drench said. According to Tipton, all the teachers agreed that the course changes are beneficial in improving the curriculum. The new sources allow the teachers to have more flexibility in the classroom. “More options are always a good thing for everybody,” Tipton said. Chris Shaw, a former History 200 teacher, said that primary sources offer a narrative that connects the stories of the time periods from History 100 to History 300. Bijan Torabi ’10, a student in Tracy Ainsworth’s History 200 class this past fall, was aware of the alterations that had been implemented into the packet, and saw the positive consequences of it in the classroom. “I found the course to be both intriguing and educational,” Torabi said.