Teaching Division 2008

by Karen Halttunen

In 2008, the Teaching Division continued its work to improve the quality of teacher-training and history instruction at all levels of K–16 and graduate education.

The division, as mentioned in its report for 2007, considered the best ways of using a bequest received by the Association in memory of Raymond J. Cunningham, who was an associate professor of history at Fordham University, and intended to encourage undergraduate historical research. The Council accepted the division’s recommendation that the bequest be used for instituting an annual prize for the best article published in a history department journal by an undergraduate student. The Council thus established the Raymond J. Cunningham Prize for the Best Article by an Undergraduate. The Committee on Committees will propose members to serve on the prize committee in the fall of 2009 and the prize will be advertised in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010. The first of these prizes will be awarded at the 2011 annual meeting in Boston.

The division reviewed the evaluations of the 2007 annual meeting by K–12 teachers and discussed many of their suggestions for making  the annual meeting more accessible to a broader range of historians, including not only K–12 teachers, but two-year college teachers, public historians, and four-year college and university teachers who turn to the AHA to enrich their teaching.

In July, 2008, the Teaching Division proposed a new procedure for designating “Teaching Sessions” at annual meetings, which was approved by Council.  Under this procedure, Teaching Sessions will no longer be identified by AHA staff members after the Program Committee has drawn up the program.  Instead, panel proposers will designate their own sessions as “Teaching Sessions.” To qualify as a Teaching Session, a proposed panel must  do one or more of the following:

  • Directly address teaching challenges and practices
  • Include both K–12 and college-level teachers in collaboration, such as a workshop for generating new lesson plans and curricula
  • Offer brief presentations of research findings followed by discussions of how to teach them
  • Invite direct participation (not just the standard, brief period of Q & A) by audience members in the session
  • Model the classroom use of technological media
  • Provide primary source materials, useful web site addresses, bibliographic suggestions, and/or lesson plans to audience members 

In October 2008, Perspectives on History published an article by the vice president entitled: “The American Historical Association and K–16 Collaboration.”

At the 2009 annual meeting, the AHA’s first workshop devoted to K–12 history education and designed for local teachers was held on Saturday, January 3, 2009, in partnership with the Center for History and New Media, the Stanford University History Education Group, and the National History Center. The focus of the workshop was the development of the National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC), funded by the federal Department of Education. Presenters discussed the following topics: Colonial Beginnings to Early Republic, Teaching with Textbooks, FDR and ER, and Teaching Black Freedom Struggles from WWII to the 1960s. Teresa DeFlisch, the outreach coordinator of the NHEC, gave a demonstration of the on-line Clearinghouse. Sam Wineburg (Stanford University) was the luncheon speaker. The workshop attracted 140 attendees.

Other Teaching Division sessions at the 2009 annual meeting included two new K–16 sessions: the pioneering “Sites of Encounter and Cultural Production” sessions, one on early human history, the other on the European-Islamic encounter around World War I. These panels were specifically designed to bring together college scholars and K–12 teachers  to engage in a two-way conversation about new scholarship and the teaching opportunities it presents. It is the division’s hope that these sessions will provide a template for regular sessions under the intellectual rubric, “Sites of Encounter,” the brainchild of Teofilo Ruiz, a former vice president of the AHA’s Research Division.

The other teaching sessions for the 2009 annual meeting provided a well-rounded assembly of opportunities in U.S. history, world history, and teaching historical thinking.

The Teaching Division extends its heart-felt thanks to Noralee Frankel for her unflagging energy, educational policy expertise, and invaluable support during the past year.  We are grateful as well to all the AHA staff members who work so hard on the herculean task of pulling together the annual meeting.

Karen Halttunen (University of Southern California) is vice president of the AHA’s Teaching Division.