Think Like An Historian

I experimented recently with a flipped classroom. While I realize that this pedagogy is not necessarily new, it is still relatively new to the discipline of history. If there ever was a discipline that has long relied on the lecture as the primary form of instruction, it is that of history. To introduce the flipped classroom to the history student is to take a risk. It is to require that the student has completed much of the required reading prior to attending class, and that said student is prepared to discuss the reading and to formulate and share arguments within the classroom environment.

The feedback from students in my recent experience was mostly positive, with many noting that they felt they were better able to retain the material they had read because they understood the expectation of the classroom environment. The negative feedback was primarily in non-attendance on the part of students who often had not completed the reading. As I pondered the success of the flipped classroom in the discipline of history, I happened to run across an article that spoke to my goals with this pedagogy. The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance, made some very pertinent arguments.

According to the author, Michael Patrick Lynch, our increasing reliance on social media and all things internet often leads us to consume a diet of information that, in effect, simply reflects ourselves. This then feeds the "human tendency to overestimate our knowledge of how the world works." His example was very apt. In our quest for knowledge, we often combine the knowledge in our being with that of another person. However, in the world of a personalized internet with analytics that continually provide us with like-minded data (information filtered through our own perspective), we can tend to conclude that we know it all, for "the internet tells us so."

It is Lynch's conclusion that our democracy cannot function if we do not "inhabit a common space where we can listen to each other and trade reasons back and forth." In his view, educators have an important role to play as they provide spaces for students to appreciate "the value of empathy, reasons and dialogue, and the value and nature of evidence itself."

Where best, then, to encourage these open spaces of dialogue in which students are afforded the opportunity to reason, to dialogue, to appreciate the value of evidence itself -- to THINK LIKE AN HISTORIAN, than in a history class?