DOCUMENT REPORTS/REFLECTIVE ESSAYS
In my courses I place great emphasis on interpreting primary sources, which is why I favour document reports and reflective essays. These types of assignments provide students with a unique opportunity to explore their historical imaginations and exercise their critical reading skills. I assign them texts by authors from different ethnic and social backgrounds, which challenges them to enter into the worldviews of diverse peoples and identify their biases. Click below for document reports and reflective essays on travel narratives, testimonios, histories, diaries, novels, and letters.
All students need to know how to navigate libraries for a proper undergraduate education, which is why I have included library exercises in several of my courses. At the first year level I use assignments that force students to physically engage with book stacks so that they understand how libraries work. For upper level students, I have other modes of assessment that involve the handling and evaluation of archival material and rare books. Click below a few of these library assignments.
Whether dealing with the early modern period or contemporary times, I stress that visual sources are important forms of historical evidence. Photographs, in particular, are powerful mediums for understanding the past in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries given their seductive power of realism. I provide my students with photographs on a similar theme taken by different photographers, which allows them to explore the overall historical context of these pictures and to learn that the camera lens is never neutral. Click below for a photographic exercise on migrant Mexican workers in the United States and Canada.
In several of my courses I like to begin with ethnographic exercises, which force students to develop their observation skills in their own local environment. I ask students to spend several hours in cultural “sites” like malls, train stations, markets, and other places where they are able to observe the interaction between people, buildings, and objects. Encouraging them to take down “field notes” and think about their own culture as “strange” fosters a deeper appreciation for the cultural diversity we encounter in the past. Click on the titles below for an ethnographic report and photo essay on Canadian society.
Research papers are valuable exercises for undergraduates at all levels and I use them in both my second year survey courses and upper level seminars. I stress to my students that they need to be passionate about their subjects, always recognizing that writing a university paper is a privilege that few people in the world enjoy. Click on the titles below for the instructions for both the proposal and the research paper.