Thirstan Falconer and Zack MacDonald
Not every history student is going to become a professional historian. The challenge, therefore, is an obvious one: how can professors transcend traditional pedagogical models that emphasize written exams and research papers to incorporate elements that better prepare students for life after an undergraduate degree? Some individuals teaching Canadian history are especially interested in reinventing the traditional lecture teaching style for a hybrid model that explores digital history, experiential/active learning, inquiry/problem-based learning, and public history. Through collaborations with other scholars, as well as partners in other departments or faculties, Canadian history professors have the opportunity to transform the way students interact and learn in university classrooms.
Many history graduates have found themselves in jobs for which their research and analytical skills are important factors in their success. To get into these positions, applicants encounter employment competitions that force them outside of their comfort zones and challenge their creative thinking skills. How can we expect our history program alumni to innovate in the workplace if their post-secondary education employed pedagogical models that were pioneered before the arrival of the digital age? Employers are looking for skills and experience that are often overlooked by traditionally structured history departments. Moreover, the contemporary employment landscape is increasingly collaborative while academic history training rarely requires meaningful collaboration. Consequently, recent graduates often lack the practical experience of conducting media scans, summarizing complex ideas, or writing clear and concise summaries. While it is true that Canadian history departments encourage undergraduate research, how many of them have integrated real-world scenarios into their classrooms?
Canadian history can offer students the opportunity to engage in problem-based learning in an active and experiential learning environment. The authors of this post have collaborated to reimagine learning within the scope of a third-year Canadian international relations course. In addition to a final exam and research paper, we envision that students participate in in-class exercises that require them to write a briefing note in an allotted amount of time. Continue reading