Internationalizing a Course on the Cultural and Intellectual History of the Ancient World

Internationalizing a Course on the Cultural and Intellectual History of the Ancient World

Richard S. Rawls (Georgia Gwinnett College, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2791-6.ch005

Abstract

This chapter investigates the process of internationalizing a course on ancient history. It suggests ways that a course can be created, examines important issues, and provides examples of assignments to help meet course, discipline, and institutional outcomes. Informed by the work of Fink, it commences by arguing for the significance of course outcome goals, disciplinary outcome goals, and additional institutional goals related to internationalizing the curriculum. Without these various outcome goals as building blocks for the course, it will be both difficult to assess the educational effectiveness of the class and challenging to organize the content. The chapter next discusses pedagogical issues before moving into internationalizing the course. It then investigates the work of two ancient authors, Herodotus and Tacitus, who commented upon foreign cultures. Their histories support exercises designed to help learn outcome goals. Contrary to what some may think, internationalizing a course on ancient history is easier than one might initially anticipate.
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Introduction

This chapter will examine the process of internationalizing a course on ancient history. Some might think that a class on ancient history would not lend itself well to the process of “internationalizing the curriculum.” After all, one cannot have a face-to-face conversation with someone from a different culture if that person is long dead. One cannot resurrect the ancient Medes no matter how much one tries. It is thus an intimidating enterprise to interrogate the texts and artifacts of people from “then and there.” Contrary to the hesitations one might have, this chapter argues that it is in fact possible to internationalize a course on ancient history. If, as White (1965) asserted, “History is a means of access to ourselves” (p. 201), then our study of the ancients will be an act of self-revelation and discovery.

This chapter will further suggest ways that a course can be created or changed, examine issues to be considered, and provide examples of assignments to help meet course, discipline, and institutional outcomes. Informed by the work of Fink (2013), it will start by suggesting the importance of course outcome goals, disciplinary outcome goals, and additional institutional goals related to internationalizing the curriculum. Without these various outcomes in mind, it will be both difficult to assess the educational effectiveness of the class and challenging to organize the content. The chapter will discuss a series of pedagogical issues before moving into internationalizing the course. It will show some ways that two ancient authors commented upon foreign cultures, and it will discuss exercises designed to help learn outcome goals.

A study conducted in 1993 surveyed student reactions to university-level instruction, especially to the overall quality of their in-class experiences. In the summary of their study, Courts and McInerney (1993, pp. 33-38) reported that students did not understand themselves as self-directed learners. Students generally lacked confidence in their overall abilities to approach, conceptualize, and discover a way to figure things out on their own. In commenting on the Courts and McInerney study, Fink (2013) observed that students feel fragmented and isolated, and that this isolation stems partly from “not having much interaction with other students, either in class or out of class, about course-related matters” (p. 6). Fink (2013) proposes “significant learning experiences” as a partial remedy for the problems of isolation, segmentation, and for student inability to figure out how to approach problems.

Fink’s (2013) definition of significant learning remains ambitious in how he defines it: “significant learning is learning that makes a difference in how people live – and the kind of life they are capable of living” (p. 7). Although this definition may sound flowery or highly aspirational, the intentions of significant learning remain easily grasped yet tough to implement. For Fink (2013), significant learning remains so vital that it merits its own taxonomy precisely because the phrases, words, and concepts captured by Bloom’s taxonomy no longer prove as helpful as they once did. Fink (2013) argues, “Individuals and organizations involved in higher education are expressing a need for important kinds of learning that do not emerge easily from the Bloom taxonomy” (p. 34). Fink (2013) maintains that significant learning involves inter alia a classroom setting characterized by: high levels of student engagement and in-class participation; different and multiple types of learning experienced by students (p. 33); interaction (p. 37); the acquisition of “foundational knowledge” (pp. 34-39); learning how to learn; and (new) ways of applying knowledge. Although it is beyond the scope and intentions of this chapter to summarize everything Fink suggests, it is nonetheless evident that professors must engage in careful planning if they wish for their students to acquire these experiences and content. The connection between significant learning and internationalization will be made more explicit below, but oral assignments remain especially vital for achieving several of Fink’s recommendations.

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