WHY AND HOW I teach
I love to teach, and see it as my way to help the world. My approach to teaching is to fully integrate my own historical research into what I teach so that I can model for my students what a creative, inquiring, and curiosity-driven life can look like. I have found that when my pedagogy is closely linked to my research, students become more engaged and excited about learning, seeing our work together as collaborative. I further emphasize this sense of collaborative learning by connecting student research with my own, something which has proven especially effective in advising honors and postgraduate students.
At the core of my teaching is the goal of helping my students understand American power both conceptually as an idea and concretely in the world today. In order to accomplish this I employ an inquiry-based learning approach that begins with the elements of that power – political, cultural, economic, environmental – and then works backward, asking how such a nation emerged from European empire-building and colonization in North America. Drawing on my research in Native American history, the histories of African and Indigenous slaveries, and the multiple migrations of peoples from Europe to North America, I am able to demonstrate for students the origins of American diversity and pluralism. But I can also help them to understand the roots of on-going social struggles like racial violence, gender and sexuality discrimination, and income disparity. Emphasizing this rich diversity, as well as the roles that these different peoples have played in the formation of the United States, is especially important for American students today, as our nation continues to diversify.
I have developed a range of entertaining and innovative courses including Encounters in Colonial America, The Early American Republic and Antebellum Era, the Age of Revolutions, the United States and the World, and the American Civil War. I can also teach a broad series of survey courses including the United States History Survey, the Native American History Survey, the Environmental History Survey, and the Survey of the American West. I very much enjoy teaching Historiogrpahy and History Methods courses as well.
My courses employ innovative digital and online assessments, oral presentations and role-plays, and classic teaching techniques like lectures and small group discussions. I have found place-based learning such as walking tours, visits to monuments and museums, and oral interviews with history professionals to be highly effective ways to bring history alive for students. I use service learning projects such as having students develop historical tours for the public, write op-eds using history, and taking family oral interviews to demonstrate for students the social value of articulating and communicating history in everyday life. These diverse methods enable me to better reach students with different learning styles and abilities.
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Phoenix, Arizona, September 15, 2018 “The Other Constitution” (Drop me an email for the text of this talk)
Here’s a typical classroom lecture, given at Monash University in 2016