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Journal of American History

Taking Seriously the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Section Introduction
Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser

Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey
Lendol Calder

Ways of Seeing: An Introduction
Michael Coventry, Peter Felten, David Jaffee, Cecilia O’Leary, and Tracey Weis, with Susannah McGowan

Thinking Visually as Historians: Incorporating Visual Methods
David Jaffee

Confronting Prior Visual Knowledge, Beliefs, and Habits: “Seeing” beyond the Surface
Peter Felten

What’s the Problem? Connecting Scholarship, Interpretation, and Evidence in Telling Stories about Race and Slavery
Tracey Weis

Moving beyond "the Essay": Evaluating Historical Analysis and Argument in Multimedia Presentations
Michael Coventry

Connecting to the Public: Using New Media to Engage Students in the Iterative Process of History
Cecila O’Leary

Ways of Seeing: A Conclusion
Michael Coventry, Peter Felten, David Jaffee, Cecilia O’Leary, and Tracey Weis, with Susannah McGowan

Ways of Seeing: Evidence and Learning in the History Classroom, A Conclusion

Michael Coventry, Peter Felten, David Jaffee, Cecilia O'Leary, and Tracey Weis, with Susannah McGowan

"Insofar as knowledge about teaching is anecdotally conveyed, it cannot be systematically traced . . . neither can it be systematically built on, since it cannot be accurately retrieved," Mariolina Rizzi Salvatori has argued. In short, an anecdotal approach to teaching "does not conform to most commonly accepted criteria of traditional scholarship." 48 In order to build our knowledge of teaching and learning in our own field, we realized that we had to engage the growing literature about the scholarship of teaching and learning being developed by historians with zeal and with a collective rather than an individual gaze.

Our intense collaboration has brought us together in electronic networks, conferences, and VKP writing residencies, where we have shared and critiqued each other's ideas and drafts. We have wrestled with questions of what constitutes historical understanding and how to present history in the classroom. We have together explored the openness and uncertainty of interpreting visual materialsórecognizing in our work the complexity of the past and the challenge to our prior knowledgeóan exploration that we now think essential for our students as they strive to acquire historical understanding. Our evidence has enabled us to see that process better.

What does it mean to think historically? That question has been central to us. As numerous recent critics have argued, history has traditionally been reluctant to engage in reflection on its own practice.49 But we believe that these theoretical and philosophical problems are empirical issues for exploration in our own classrooms. Through careful attention to how students learn, we have come to fresh insight into our own practice as both researchers and teachers of history. Watching novice historians develop historical skills forces usóthe expert practitionersóto uncover and articulate those skills and practices that we have internalized over time.

Our VKP work in the scholarship of teaching and learning has made us conscious that engagement is the first step in historical inquiry; that historians read both visual and traditional texts with attention to context and heuristic sourcing; that juxtapositional complexity enhances and deepens our understanding of history. We are learning from and with our students to be self-conscious about the intricate choices we make when constructing historical narratives, and the compression we use when we invoke visual or textual representations involves intricate choices. We study our students as they reenact our iterative processes of research and revision; and we struggle with them to make meaning with and for a larger public.

Whether as readers or researchers, our observations of students making meaning with visual and written sources now inform our own scholarly practice. Curriculum specialists often deliberate over how to ensure the transferability of skills from one class to another as a student moves through a curriculum. Analogously, we ask whether our scholarship of teaching and learning after the pictorial and digital turns transfers not only to the next class we teach but also to our more traditional scholarship as historians of particular countries, eras, and topics. These case studies push us to move beyond our opening question: Why do we use visual approaches in our teaching? to ask the disciplinary question: Why are we not using visual evidence and visual modes in the presentation of our own practice and research? How can visual evidence inform, or provide alternative perspectives to, our traditional research practices? What kinds of historical narratives can we visualize, construct, and present within our field and to a larger public?

We conclude that the pedagogical-visual-digital turn offers an alternative perspective for historical understanding and historical presentation. As we explore how historical meaning is constructed from new, relatively unfamiliar types of sources and presented to a public increasingly accustomed to visual communication, we grow in understanding of our own often-unexamined disciplinary practices. The scholarship of teaching and learning offers a new way for historians to see their disciplineóto think, write, and communicate about history, in the classroom and beyond.

48 Salvatori, "Scholarship of Teaching," 369ñ94.

49 See Dominick LaCapra, History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory (Ithaca, 2004); John H. Zammito, "Reading 'Experience': The Debate in Intellectual History among Scott, Toews, and LaCapra," in Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism, ed. Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia (Berkeley, 2000); Joan W. Scott, "Experience," in Feminists Theorize the Political, ed. Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott (New York, 1992), 22ñ40; and John E. Toews, "Intellectual History after the Linguistic Turn: The Autonomy of Meaning and the Irreducibility of Experience," American Historical Review, 92 (Oct. 1987), 879ñ907. See also Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (New York, 1988).