25 September 2007

Where Teaching and Research Meet

(Or: wherein the Historianess gives a quiz, is disappointed, and then works on her own research.)

Yesterday I gave a quiz in my survey class. I like quizzes; they're a good way to measure how well students are picking up basic facts and patterns, and they're a good way to see both if the students are reading, and how they are doing the reading.

One of the easier questions was "Name two Puritan colonies." Based on my notes, they had three options there: Massachusetts Bay, New Haven (I would accept Connecticut as an answer), and Providence Island. I figured some students would answer with Plymouth or Rhode Island, which would give me an opportunity to remind them that the Pilgrims were Separatists, and that Puritans considered theologically-liberal Rhode Island to be a den of iniquity.

Instead, about two-thirds of the class answered with "Jamestown" or "Virginia."

ARGH! I'm sure that somewhere in a lecture I did talk extensively about how Massachusetts was a Puritan colony and Virginia was *not* a Puritan colony.

So after finishing my grading, I went home to work on the footnotes for my conference paper A Puritan Virginia? Rethinking English Identities in the Early Chesapeake, 1607-1644.

(Insert ironic comment here.)

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At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Quinn said...

Ha! I just got through talking about that den of iniquity, Rhode Island.

My students just turned in their first reaction paper. I fear to look at them.

At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 3:22:00 AM, Anonymous DownUnderProf said...

Don't ever try giving them a map test then (you know, blank map and a list of places for them to enter). When the Dardanelles end up in northern France, Berlin has advanced eastwards to lie roughly on the Polish-Russian border, and the Baltic gently washes the shores of the Levant, one wonders what on earth goes through their heads when you discuss the plan for the navy to force the Narrows, etc.

At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous redneckprof said...

Hey Downunder -- I give mine map quizzes. They have to place on a map Jamestown, Mass Bay, Cahokia, the 1763 Proclamation Line, and later on free/slave areas. They hate it but generally do really well.

At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 11:49:00 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

My midterm will have a map part too. We've done a lot of work with looking at where things are, so I anticipate it will go well.

It's so interesting that the things we professor-types completely take for granted (like Massachusetts=Puritan and Jamestown=not Puritan) are foreign to our students. Here I am dedicating a portion of my research life to complicating that notion...and still I haven't managed to communicate the simple version to my students!

It sure does make one reevaluate one's teaching strategies.

At Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:44:00 PM, Anonymous redneckprof said...

Students map skills are generally REALLY poor so I think it's a good thing to do this. I have told myself that my post-1865 class does NOT have a map component, but actually when you look at foreign policy, wars / Cold War etc there certainly are many potential map questions for that class, too.

At Friday, October 05, 2007 4:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca,
I live in VA and was chatting with people in Chicester, Suusex ENG last night, who referred me to your Capt William Mitchell essay.
What a Hoot!
I think I descend from him based on research and DNA connections. Quite the character.
The depostions I found in MD archives were very entertaining.
Sherrie Mitchell Boone
Ronaoke, VA

At Saturday, December 15, 2007 11:35:00 PM, Anonymous Robert M. said...

You teach it, i.e. use it, so you know it. They don't teach it (say, as pre-quiz study review with each other), so they don't know it. Until its reinforced, reinforced, reinforced. As in, this is what I'm going to tell you, I'm telling you, this is what I told you.

To label Virginia Cavalier-to-be and Mass Bay Roundhead-to-be may be "old fashioned", and slightly out of fact in the early decades,* but I've come to learn that doesn't make it less True. And we all learn in short-hand ways: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. More T. S. Wertenbacker, less R. Wall. (OK, several short Edmund Morgan works then.)

Then too, even your capable students are NOT getting the kind of study-training, map-usage & info repetition in public high school that I & my fellow students got. Heck, I was "mapped out" in elementary school! Then I could have found the Dardanelles, as, pre-Google, I knew where to look on the shelves (elementary then jr high reinforcement of basic library skills for us in all classes). But then too, I was an American Heritage fanatic, spurred on by the CW centennial which broadened into "seeing" the past locally. From memory: "One mile south at Compo Beach, 2000 British troops landed on April 25, 1777 for a raid on Danbury." My first Minuteman statue, too. This falls under Go Find All The Historical Markers In Your Area and figure out Why They Are There. Only much much later did I figure out/learn the Why of Benedict Arnold.

(You ever think to work with or make available as required and/or suggested reading the hard-cover AH collection? The Joseph Plumb memoir was first published there with illustrations by Bill Maudlin, he of Willie & Joe fame. A very real experience to see such loose modern lines on an historically true account. I read it then, and a host of other material, including all the early short work on women in American history. There are two combined indexes very well done. Its companion series, Horizon, remains excellent on European history, some Near East/better on Far East and the arts etc. J. H. Plumb did a lot of writing for it. Bailyn wrote for both. It ws extremely well edited & colorfully produced, but then I grew up with the son of one of the original editors. Still, consider the idea. Relevant, personal history in digestible doses & with pictures!)

Back to your query. So, THEN, once your sure you've gotten the Short-hand in their brains, THEN you spin out "Puritan Virginia" around say the Gookin brothers and the pervasive memes of Militant Protestantism throughout English culture. (How many Harvard men went South as ministers, for instance? Go count 'em in Sibley. Rice U must have Sibley somewhere.) Get the basics down and THEN swive with their expectations. That's turning the key on the New Concept.

But you only have so much time; didn't see Adair 10th Federalist in the Constitution biblios. And a research paper? Why not go with an in-depth biblographic review as that's a scholarly art-form all in itself and not much practiced in an historian’s portfolio? Lit review skills are essential in the sciences, for instance. Making connections.

I've book-marked your blog, of course. Arrived here from Literary Thing after checking out our common interest in Jenny Hale Pulsifer's KING book. (She beat me to the Concord Massacre story. Drat. You can only tell a Great Story for the First Time just once.)

My ill-formed web-site is www.yankeeancestry.com. I have to focus it or split the Concord stuff out.

And as to "six absences = F" and they get no credit for being there, other then being there? Even my old Harvard-trained UK Empire man told us, "Pass the tests, turn in the paper work, but not much in class? Ah, a gentleman's C."

* You know, of course, that Winthrop once ordered the captain of the castle to fire on any English warship that showed up in Boston harbor flying the King's Colours? Talk about (too soon of a) Revolution, or the Path of Independence Not Traveled. A “what if?” game or short paper is a good mind stretcher, too. What if Chatham had had a respite from the gout, eh, and re-found his inner-Pitt?


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