How do we help our students appreciate that history has relevance to their lives? This is a continually evolving challenge: every generation of students—indeed, every cohort—is shaped by a different array of experiences, and we can only make history meaningful to them if we are responsive to their varied and shifting circumstances. The noticeable decline in the number of history majors in recent years suggests we may have lost our edge in addressing their concerns. Perhaps it’s time to consider what more we can do to make our classrooms places where the past informs the present.
Dane Kennedy, Center director and Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History at George Washington University, recently implemented the History and Policy Education Program in his course on Victorian Britain. Student presentations, resources, and reflections on the experience can be found on this page. The assignment instructions can be found here.
Student groups created multiple social media accounts to supplement their presentations. On the day of, students live-tweeted their presentations along with those of other groups. The Twitter discussion was aggregated on Wakelet, and you can view the conversation here.
My group had many interesting discussions where we found striking similarities between the present day U.S. and Victorian Britain, like pay disparities between men and women which existed during the Victorian era and still persist today in the U.S. The briefing was a great reminder of how the past can teach us about and relate to the present.
Anne Dobler, GWU student