Eric is a PhD candidate in History, specializing in early America, Atlantic slavery, and the history of science. He is a teaching assistant for The History of the City of New York. This tends to be a large lecture course popular with students from all disciplines. (I took it in 2001 for fun as a non-degree student. There were 2-300 students and an army of TAs). Eric is responsible for two 50 minute recitation sessions, held back-to-back on select Thursdays. This class is outside of Eric's area of specialization and for many of the students, this will be their only history class.

Eric's overarching goal for the semester is to introduce several key analytical tools historians use when thinking about the past the students. Since this course is, for many students, their only exposure to a college-level history course, Eric hopes his students will learn to engage any historical narrative with a more critical lens, rather than just see it as an incontestable truth or mere amalgamation of facts. For most of the students, the material will be pretty interesting - compared to many classes, this one is more hands-on and experiential - with walking tours and movies and engagement with the city. Eric's task is to help the students develop their ability to critically analyze the historical material.

Eric's learning goal for the evaluated class session is to have his students critique the assigned secondary source, Kenneth Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier (1985), using one key historical analytical tool: class. Eric's hope is that students will leave the session with a clearer understanding of how class can be used as a historical lens to understand how the past changes over time; and how to critique other historians' arguments based on their own explicit or implied assumptions of how class operates in history. The method Eric is using to assess whether his classroom discussion is helping the students -- pre- and post-class surveys -- will help Eric better understand the extent to which his classroom questions serve his ultimate teaching goal.

Eric's vision of how students will work towards that goal:
1) First, during the Nov. 11 section, Eric will introduce Kristin to the class and tell them why she's there, and what she'll be observing. Eric will also briefly explain the purpose of the day's exercise and the reason for the pre- and post-questions he'll be giving them. (5)

2) Next, Eric will give each student a brief list of questions to answer in writing about the historical "tool" he wants to hone during the period -- class. The questions [listed below] are intended to give Eric sense of how students understand class, and how it could be used to analyze the past, but before they've discussed the concept in the section. The questionnaire will also ask students their educational background -- i.e., if they're a history major; how many history courses they've taken, etc. -- which will help Eric understand the amount of knowledge students may have before the class exercise.(5-7 min)

3) Next, during the class, Eric will discuss the larger theoretical importance of using an analytical category (ie class) when attempting to understand the past. He will then bring the students into the discussion. The questions will be more open-ended, but may include the following: Is class always a useful tool in analyzing the past? If a historian is writing an environmental history, for instance, it's quite possible that class is less useful than if, say, a historian is writing about the many failed revolutions of the mid-19th century, a period of vast economic change. Students might also consider the extent to which class unites or divides people, and, if it fails, what causes might be preventing class unification. (10-12 min)

4) After the larger class discussion, students will break into small groups where they will apply their (hopefully refined) understanding of class to Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier. This will give students a smaller setting where they can hash out their ideas, which is particularly useful for students more reticent in large groups. (6-8 min)

5) Next, students will reconvene as an entire group. One student from each of the small groups will present the conclusions of their group to the class. With whatever time remains, students will then critique each others ideas in an open discussion. (10 min)

6) Finally, students will spend the remain time in class answering very brief question intended to show Eric what changed in their thinking about class from the moment they wanted into class to the moment they left. (5 min)

Kristin will be tracking
During the class itself, Kristin will be primarily tracking the following:

a) Kristin will take notes of the specific questions Eric poses during the open-discussion, as well as the comments students make to them; this will help Eric see what questions generated the most fruitful class room discussions

b) during the small-group discussions among students, Kristin will also observe a few of the student groups, making note of the way some of the groups appear to be using class to critique Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier; this will add an extra set of eyes watching Eric's students, and, when Kristin and Eric de-brief, allow him to see whether Kristin observed his students using "class" in a useful or non-useful way, whether his preceding classroom open-discussion had any impact on that

Observation Activities
Eric will explain the Teagle program and explain to them the goals he has set for himself, the students and the observer. This way the students will have extra reason to keep the 50-minute discussion focused. It will also foster an honest, open, transparent environment between Eric and his students.

Pre-Discussion Questions:

1) Historians often rely upon a core set of basic social categories -- race, class, gender -- to group people together and understand human motivation. Do you think class is always useful as a means to understand historical events and the motivations of human beings? Briefly explain why or why not.

2) Do you believe people within the same class are always united by their shared socioeconomic background? If so, what factors do members of the same class share in common? If not, what factors might undermine class unity?

3) If you were to write a history of Sept. 11th, would class be useful to your understanding of the events? If so, how? If not, why not?

4) What is your major or planned major at Columbia/Barnard?

5) How many college-level history courses have you taken, excluding this course?

Post-Discussion Questions:
1) What, if anything, changed about the way you understood class as a historical analytical tool after the class discussion? Please list a specific insight, if any, that you took away.

2) Did your instructor's classroom questions provoke your thinking? If so, what questions or what way did he frame the issue that helped you see class differently?

3) Which classroom activity did you find more useful -- the larger class discussion of the issue, or breaking down into smaller groups? Either way, did something your classmates say influence the way you understood class, and what specifically was it that s/he said?

9.29 Teagle Fellows meeting: Observation planning workshop
10.2/3 Meet with Eric to work through observation plan
10.4 Submit observation plan
10.6 Teagle Fellows meeting: Presenting observation plans
11.9 -- Eric sends students pre-class survey
11. 10 Meet with Eric to revise observation plan
11.11 -- Eric sends students post-class survey

11.11 Observe Eric's class
-->3:30 Arrive at classroom (Hamilton, Room 402) and address any last minute concerns.
-->4:10 Class begins. Eric will introduce me to the class
--->5:00 Class ends. Next class begins
-->6:00 pm, Second class ends

11.12-13 Eric collects surveys, reads and compares them; Kristin does the same. They both meet to debrief.
12.8 Submit observation report to Teagle Fellows