David Voelker is an Associate Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He arrived at UWGB after completing a Ph.D. in U.S. history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. He teaches primarily early American history, including introductory, upper-level, and online courses. Since 2005, he has engaged in UWGB’s First Nations Studies Fusion program, which focuses on the integration of American Indian history, culture, and pedagogy into courses across the curriculum. He was a Wisconsin Teaching Fellow (WTF) in 2006-2007 and twice participated in UWGB's Teaching Scholar program, which he currently co-directs.  He documented his WTF project in an August 2008 article in The History Teacher. As a participant in the OPID-sponsored Signature Pedagogies project, he co-authored with Joel Sipress (UW-Superior) an essay on the impact of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) on history pedagogy. He and Sipress went on to publish an essay in the March 2011 Journal of American History that combined historical analysis with SoTL research to suggest an alternative to the dominant coverage model of teaching introductory history.  (This article won the 2012 Maryellen Weimer Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning Award.)  His current SoTL project is an assessment of how effectively his argument-based introductory American course improves students’ understanding of historical thinking and the work that historians do.  He shares SoTL resources at www.thegraybox.net.

Workshop Title: Rethinking Content Coverage

As experts in our disciplines and professions, we sometimes forget that we developed our mastery of content knowledge in tandem with—not prior to—our deep understanding, judgment-making abilities, and disciplinary skills. While it might be possible for students who are inundated with a large volume of content to retain some factual and conceptual information, a pedagogy driven primarily by the imperative to cover content leaves most students holding a bag of disconnected pieces—and the bag probably has a hole in it. Even "active learning" strategies focused on content mastery (isolated from application of content) can only go so far in helping students develop the deep understanding and disciplined modes of thinking that would allow them to apply what they know. This seminar will briefly make the case for moving beyond the pedagogy of coverage toward an intentional pedagogy of understanding, thinking, and application. Participants will learn about and discuss several concrete strategies for moving beyond coverage in a way that will allow students to practice applying "content" as they learn it deeply.

This seminar will challenge participants to consider what their students might be able to accomplish if content is re-conceived as a raw material upon which students act, rather than as an end in itself. Participants will review and discuss the backward design strategy of course development, which draws attention to what students will be able to do as a result of completing the course. Additionally, participants will consider a strategy for bringing their highest learning goals for a class into alignment with the actual assignments or assessments and pedagogical techniques used in the course. Participants will also have a chance to get feedback from colleagues in other campuses and disciplines or professions, as well as to air concerns and get ideas for troubleshooting the movement beyond content coverage.