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Tools and Resources for Building and Updating Syllabi

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As we are beginning to get our course evaluations, we may wish to share examples of what worked with the wider community.

It is useful to remember that shared teaching resources can make for less course preparation work, while stimulating new ideas about how to be effective as a course instructor. Exploring our colleagues’ shared work provides us with different ways of framing our course objectives, interesting course assignments that may be adapted to suit our own needs, and fresh lists of possible course readings. For these reasons, the CHA Teaching and Learning Committee thought this to be a good time to share some teaching resources, with a particular focus on course syllabi.

Among other resources we would like to highlight is the CHA’s own Syllabus Central. When we first created this resource, concerns were raised around the CHA council table regarding the syllabi that might be shared and issues of ownership, permissions, credit, etc. There was discussion about whether access ought to be restricted in any way, but in the end, it was determined that teaching and learning is a key part of the CHA’s mandate and that we would model Syllabus Central and make it open to all. The CHA Syllabus Central is now a robust and growing archive of excellent examples of course syllabi. Should you wish to share your work on this site, you may do so directly through the link above.

The inspiration for the CHA’s Syllabus Central section of the website came from the US version of this shared teaching resource – History Matters – The US Survey Course on the web – housed at George Mason University: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/. If you teach US history, the History Matters site is an amazing resource. It is, of course much, much larger than the CHA’s Syllabi Central. For example, if you use women as a keyword search in Syllabus Central, you will get at least 630 hits.  Each syllabus has key words, the course title and a brief description, and a .pdf version like in the CHA’s database.

The History Matters site also provides a range of links to other teaching-history resources through their “Our Other Projects” page: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/ourotherprojs.html. It’s worth investigating this page if your areas of historical inquiry go beyond the history of the USA, as some of the listed sites are more thematically oriented, or geographically located beyond the USA.

As with History Matters, sections of the CHA Website other than the Syllabus Central contain useful resources for building syllabi. For example, under the “Decolonization, Diversity and Precarity” tab one may find discussion about teaching Canadian history in light of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including a syllabus and discussion titled “A Syllabus for History After the TRC.” The archived blog pieces available through the CHA website also offer valuable insights and resources for building course syllabi.

Finally, Twitter is a good place to check for discussions about historians who are sharing their syllabi and answering questions about the best and most recent books for new courses.