UH Joins Initiative to Redesign Introductory American History Courses

Department of History is Part of National Effort to Develop New Teaching Methods

The University of Houston is part of a national initiative to develop new ways of teaching American history to the next generation of students. Support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Historical Association (AHA) and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education will allow professors in the UH Department of History to evaluate and revise introductory college history courses mandated by the state.

“This is very focused on the classroom experience and on how to support students from diverse backgrounds,” said Rául Ramos, associate professor of history. “Our goal is create a new set of practices that would be applied nationally.”

The four-year project, called “History Gateways”, will launch in January. It is made possible by a $1.65 million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation to the AHA. The funds will be split among two- and four-year higher education institutions in New York, Chicago and Houston. In addition to UH, participating institutions in Houston include University of Houston-Downtown, Houston Community College and Texas Southern University.

The project builds a “community of practice” among regional and national educators to draw on their collective experience and knowledge in the classroom.

“The AHA-directed project will assist the American history faculty to refine their approaches in teaching the important critical reading and writing skills required for anyone to succeed in this global information-based economy,” said Philip Howard, chair of the UH Department of History. “For the past decade we have emphasized to our students that these competencies are what makes majoring in history still relevant to any career that they choose to pursue.”

The collaboration with the Gardner Institute will include training and brainstorming sessions to identify issues in the current curriculum and redesign introductory courses with new and different assignments, assessments and teaching methods.

“Participating in a grant like this puts the UH Department of History in the game and will set students up for success in other fields of study,” Ramos added. “We will play an important role in shaping the curriculum of the future.”