Hello, Autumn: Pedagogical Experiment

Is summer really over?

Can you guys believe it’s already November!? Is Autumn really here? [To be fair, it hasn’t really started to feel like fall just yet…but the leaves are turning!] I feel like the semester just started and I’m already like…where the hell has it gone??? I, like nearly every academic I know, have so much on my agenda this year that I can’t seem to slow down. Between class prep, emails, announcements, grading, writing (two) books, committees, student meetings, advising….I could go on, but you get it…..I feel overwhelmed. Boy, that’s an understatement.

P.S. I started this post in September. *oops*

Aside from feeling the weight of being junior academic, I’ve noticed that I still have that “grad school” feeling hanging over my head. I recently came across a blog post from one my favorite PhD bloggers, Dr. Nicole Cranley, and it was like bingo! Her 7 tips for making the transition from student to professional are so simple but I definitely needed to read them. So I have some soul-searching and prioritizing to do in the coming months. And it got me thinking (even more) about my pedagogy.

Autumn (Fall) 2017 Semester

This semester I’m teaching our department’s Intro to Public History course. It’s my first time really teaching it and I knew that I wanted to implement a “scaffolded” assignment the way I did in our Research and Writing in History course last year. In the spirit of collegiality (and garnering possible external feedback), I wanted to share with you the assignment!

Group Public History Portfolio (Autumn 2017)

This is an opportunity for you to engage with several different roles within the field of public history. I have broken the project up into four smaller components to reduce the concern with respect to the grade percentage and I will construct the groups to mimic what it’s like being in the field. Two of these components will be due in Week 4 and Week 8 respectively. The final two components will be due during the Final Exam Date, during which time each group will present their fully completed portfolio in a 20-30 minute “pitch.” This presentation should include visuals.

Before the final submission, students will have an opportunity to “revise” their initial proposal and grant app to include with the full portfolio. Assignment sheets, rubrics, & examples will be posted to Blackboard and details will be further discussed in class. Each member of the group is expected to contribute. Any issues within the groups should be brought to the instructor’s attention immediately.

Part I: Initial Proposal

During this phase, you will work with your group to conceive of the perfect new museum/historic site/organization/etc. for the local community. You will name your site, identify the appropriate audience, craft a mission statement, determine whether you should file for non-profit status, and propose a fundraising plan.

Below is the assignment sheet the students used. And here’s a link to the Google Doc for easier viewing.


Part  II: Grant Application

You will choose one major granting agency that fits your initial proposal and complete the agency’s grant application to the best of your ability. We will discuss examples in class. Don’t worry: you will not be expected to submit this to the actual granting agency, just to the instructor as part of the portfolio. A list of suggested granting agencies is posted to Blackboard.

It seems that all 4 groups primarily used the Maryland Historical Trust: Historic Preservation Loan Program for Capital Projects found here.

Part II: Exhibition Design

Groups will get to determine whether to plan a physical or digital exhibition. During this phase, you will work together to determine a particular part of history relevant to your organization. You will then plan a curated exhibit based on this subject. While you will not actually be creating the exhibit itself, your plan should convey who will be involved.  It should also discuss costs for construction/hosting and audience & potential controversies. Don’t forget objects/images to use, publicity, and should include sample “labels” or “text.”

Part IV: Community Event OR Educational Activity Plan

In this portion of the assignment, your group will get to choose (based on the mission of your organization) whether to propose a community-wide event or a particular educational activity.

Option A (Community Event): The event should have a catchy title, a targeted audience, and a purpose. Is your event educational? An opportunity for activism? Is it a fundraiser? These are just a few options. You will need to outline who will be involved, whether the event is free/open to the public or has a ticket/is for members only, and what the overhead costs for the event will be. Do you need to rent space? Do you need to provide food?

Option B (Educational Activity): The educational activity should also have a catchy title, a targeted audience, and a purpose. Who are you trying to educate (K-12; General Audience; Ages 50+)? Why? How do you plan to do so (hands-on activity; documentary viewing and discussion; conference)? What are the overhead costs? We will discuss both options further in class and an assignment sheet will be provided for each option.

Part V: Final Presentation

During the Final Exam period, each group will give a 20-30 minute “pitch.” You will need to dress professionally and prepare your pitch as if you were presenting to a diverse audience.  The audience could include local businesses (who might invest), the community, and politicians/civil servants (governor, mayor, police, etc.). Each presentation should include the four key pieces of your Project Portfolio. It should also engage the audience via visuals (graphs, image mock-ups, etc. in the form of a PowerPoint—or similar—presentation).

Be prepared to answer questions about your proposal from the audience. Remember that your presentation/writing should be able to engage people from different educational levels, cultural/ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. Your classmates, other university instructors and administrators, and possibly the outside public will make up the audience.

Where we Are Presently (Autumn 2017)

Students have only completed 2 of 5 parts to-date. Once students  submit the full portfolio assignment in December, I’ll post a reflection piece. I’ll also share with you the (anonymous) student feedback on the assignment. I’m excited to see the students flex their creative muscles. Stay tuned!

April Goals


Complete new suggestions for BNH Book Shelf categories-Now that I’ve talked with both Justin and Sam, I need to go ahead and finish creating a new list of categories for the Book Shelf, organize the current book lists under the new categories, and send them off to Justin and Sam for approval.

Daily Writing-I have a new mentor who is helping me with the writing process. She has projected a completion goal of all dissertation chapter drafts (no editing) by the end of the summer (July). To accomplish this, I must write at least 10 pages weekly (broken down into roughly 500 word-minimum daily goals).

Launch my summer class page-I need to make sure that I have all the components for the course set up and ready to go for the start of summer session in June. The earlier I get this done, the better.  I actually knocked this one out yesterday! Great start to the month!

Write up my Fall course syllabus-This will mainly be tinkering with a former syllabus, but I need to get it out of the way and ready to go for when the Carmen system opens up the Fall class pages for editing.


Work out-I want to make sure that I incorporate even the smallest of workouts daily, whether that’s attending the gym for weights/cardio or a class, or doing something in the house like yoga.

Set aside relaxation time-I want to make sure that my dissertation goals, teaching, preparing to move again, and my BNH responsibilities don’t interfere with my ability to relax. Each morning I’ve set aside 1 hour of quiet time with my coffee. At night, I’ve set aside 30 minutes for quiet reflection. And on Sundays-no work!

OAH Conference-I want to make the most of my time in Atlanta. First, my friend Jen will be with me and we need some quality fun time. Second, I’ll be attending most of the job search/networking forums to get prepared for entering the job market in the Fall.

Update on March Goals


Start editing the BNH Book Reviews Site–As a new member of the website BritishNavalHistory.com, my role is to re-organize and edit the Book Reviews section. Since it’s going to take a lot of work, I want to make sure I don’t bite off more than I can chew. My first steps will be to go over the plan with Sam and Justin via Skype and then get more comfortable with editing the page through WordPress.  I managed to speak with Sam and Justin and get a plan outlined for tackling the Book Reviews section. Lately I’ve been contemplating new categories and will be making this my priority for April.

Construct new chapter outlines–Now that I have new, solid direction for my dissertation, I need to write up a new set of chapter outlines not only for myself, but to send to my advisor so that she and I are on the same page. These outlines are nearly complete. I’ll be finishing them tomorrow and sending them off to my advisor. The next step will be getting back to chapter writing.

Join the Twitter #writingpact–I’ve seen several colleagues using the hashtag “writing pact” to keep themselves on point. This month, I’d like to start participating in “writing pact” and get at least half of my second chapter drafted. If I’m good, I’ll get the whole chapter drafted. I did not manage to complete this goal. I am adding it on to next month’s goals.

Write my summer syllabus–I need to get this written up (probably just an edited version of last summer’s syllabus) and get my summer books ordered. Completed.

Get my summer class page up and running–Once I have the syllabus edited, I need to make sure that my Carmen page is up and running for the students. The Carmen website did not have the summer pages ready to work on, so that is being moved to April’s goals.

Write my teaching philosophy statement–Since I’ll be entering the job market in the Fall, I think it’s high time I get my teaching philosophy out on paper. While it seems overwhelming, I’m determined to get a draft of it completed this month. Again, this was at the bottom of the priority list, so it is something I am moving to next month’s goals. I managed to reach half of my goals. Each month will get better and better.


Get back to the gym–In the last couple of weeks, with lots of traveling and friends visiting, I’ve fallen off my workout routine. I’ve decided that rather than sticking to the rigid daily routine I was working on before, that I’m going to incorporate a lot more cardio activity and then stick with the weight lifting routines I can do without a buddy. I sort of accomplished this one before coming down with the flu. Now that I am recovered, it’s back to it tomorrow!

Spend more time with new friends–I only have a short time left here in Fayetteville, so I want to make sure I spend as much time with my new friends here as I can. I want to designate at least one day a week to social time (in person, not online). Had a few coffee dates this month!

Spend less time on social media sites–Aside from my duties with BritishNavalHistory and my academic work on social media, I want to spend less time checking my personal Facebook. I was somewhat successful with this goal. It’s a work in progress. But I did participate in Unicef’s program in which they donate water to people in need for every 10 minutes you spend without your phone. In just a couple of days, I spent nearly 20 hours without it.

Have one date night a week with my husband–This is a no brainer. The further along he gets in his program (and the more work I have to do with my dissertation), the less time we get to spend together. I want to designate one night a week to a no-study/no-school date-night. Getting him on board will be the tricky part. This one is still a work in progress as he prepares to move on to the next phase of his course.

Finish the two novels I started–I am most of the way done with both The Scarpetta Factor and Dust by Patricia Cornwell. I need to go ahead and finish both of them! Incomplete so far.

How did you do this month?