Transforming Learning in the Classroom

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

Dept. of History


For the past twelve years, I have been teaching a lower division introductory historical methods course that uses active learning to introduce students to the issues and practices of historical methods, the "how to" of historical inquiry, research and writing. While there are many models for such a course, including the one described by Jeffrey Merrick in the February 2006 issue of this journal, the design of such a course at my institution requires consideration of an often-overlooked dimension. The student body at Rhode Island College (RIC) is primarily working class, mirroring a significant transformation in the traditional college student population prompted first by the 1944 GI Bill and then the 1964 Higher Education Act, the latter almost doubling the number of low-income students entering college. In 1999, the Department of Education estimated that forty-seven percent of all undergraduates were enrolled in community colleges. Sherry Lee Linkon, cofounder of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, contends that "more college students attend 'working-class institutions' (schools that serve largely commuter populations, schools with students who are among the first in their families to attend college and who work at least part-time if not full time in jobs such as retail clerk, factory laborer, or waitress; many of those students have spouses and children) than attend 'regular' colleges." This definition aptly describes my students and my institution. In my methods course, I am working to take into account the perspectives and expectations of working-class students as well as the skills they bring to the classroom.