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!

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