Reflections on Teaching US History in a British University

1 06 2012

I have enjoyed teaching these students who are extremely interested in American history. For the vast majority of these students, this module was their first exposure to the academic study of the history of the United States. Many students have a well developed, if somewhat inaccurate, knowledge of particular aspects of US history, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, two topics that are taught at A-levels.

The students appeared to enjoy the seminars, which were based on a mixture of traditional seminar readings (i.e., scholarly articles and books) and podcasts. They also appear to have liked my lecture style. Although attendance did decline after I began placing videos of the lectures on Moodle in week 3, I intend to use Echo360 lecture capture next year because many of the students who have impeccable attendance records said that they found it useful to be able to watch videos of the lectures when revising for the exam.

I think that students got a great deal from the essay coursework. Almost all students said that this was the first time they were required to base their coursework on primary sources.

In October, I asked the students to follow the New York Times Disunion blog, which is about the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. (There are references to the blog in the Module Guide). My intention was that we would discuss recent blog posts each week. However, it became clear to me after a few weeks that the blog was assuming too much prior knowledge about the Civil War for us to have a profitable discussion.

Andrew Smith

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