I just sent the following email to one of my classes for the Spring.
Thanks for signing up for History 328: US Women’s History since 1870. I wanted to give you a little preview of my plans for our class next semester because the research projects in the class are going to be a little different than that of other history classes (even for those of you who took HIST 327 this fall).
First of all, in many ways, the general structure of the class is going to be fairly standard. We’ll have lectures on Tuesdays and part of Thursdays, and discuss readings on Thursdays. There will be a mid-term and a final based on those lectures, discussions, and readings.
What’s different is that the rest of your grade, roughly 40%, will be based on a series of projects we’ll be working on in groups and as a class. These projects will be based around researching Mary Washington College classes in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, & 1960s (including course topics, pedagogical approaches, majors, gender stereotypes, technology, and clothing). As the class lectures and readings look at the experiences of women in the United States in the late 19th and 20thCenturies, our parallel goal will be to understand what college meant to women who came to Mary Washington in the four decades in the middle of the 20thCentury.
Each group of 6-7 of you will have a decade to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades. Rather than writing a traditional individual research paper, you’ll keep a research blog and work with your group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.
Based on those sites, we will collectively decide (perhaps with the help of some alums), which decade we will then use for the final project, a re-creation of a course session or two from that decade.
Now, if this project is not the kind of thing you’ll be interested in working on, you may want to look for another class. But I hope you’ll each at least be intrigued by the idea and perhaps even excited by doing something that is original, fun, and creative, while tying in to the themes we’ll be discussing more broadly for US women in the class.
Have a terrific break and I’ll see you in January.
I’m very excited about this project, so any suggestions you have for the process, the approach, the research sites, or anything else will be greatly appreciated.