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University of Oklahoma courses invite students to dive into history, government

Destiny Crowley, 19, is enrolled in U.S. History, a survey course all OU students are required to take. But unlike a typical lower-level course, the class focuses less on names, dates and places and more on teaching students to do the work of historians.
by Silas Allen Modified: August 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: August 28, 2013

“The goal of this was to rethink the way we deliver some of our biggest introductory classes,” he said.

The history course is focused on two research papers students will be assigned to write, Harper said.

For the first paper, students will be given a primary source — a document dating to the time of the events being covered, like a copy of the Mayflower Compact or a newspaper article covering events in the Civil Rights Movement. Students will write a paper based on that source, Harper said.

For the second paper, professors will send students into OU's archives and ask them to do their own research. At the end of the semester, they'll be asked to write a larger paper based on their findings. By doing their own research, students will make a small contribution to society's understanding of history, Harper said.

The civics course places students in a so-called democracy lab, where students will learn about how to engage data and find real-world opportunities for civic engagement.

Crowley, a Russian major from Shawnee, said she's noticed the difference already.

Although the semester is fairly young — “We still have trouble actually passing the sign-in sheet around in class,” she said — the course material seems less abstract.

Crowley said she's enjoyed other history courses she's taken. But she's looking forward to being able to use the university's archives to do her own research.

“It makes the education experience more well-rounded,” she said. “It always seems a bit detached when you're memorizing names and dates and numbers.”

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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