Tag Archives: Forum

Review of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen Du Val

Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution. Kathleen Du Val. New York: Random House, 2015. ISBN: 9781400068951

This essay is a part of our series, Using Book Reviews as a Teaching Tool – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of History.

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Edited by Ann Waltner

(c) 2016 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 12, Spring, 2016. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Review of Empires Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869-1967 by Ellen Boucher

Empire’s Children: Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869-1967. Ellen Boucher. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781107041387

This essay is a part of our series, Using Book Reviews as a Teaching Tool – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of History

HenryEmpireReviewsSpring2016themiddlegroundjournal.org

Edited by Ann Waltner

(c) 2016 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 12, Spring, 2016. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Review of Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245-1510 by Kim M. Phillips

Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245-1510. Kim M. Phillips. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780812245486

DoaneBeforeReviewsSpring2016themiddlegroundjournal.org

Edited by Ann Waltner

(c) 2016 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 12, Spring, 2016. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Ongoing Forum: Using Book Reviews as a Teaching Tool – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of History, History 8015 – Scope and Methods of Historical Studies

Ongoing Forum: Using Book Reviews as a Teaching Tool – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of History, History 8015 – Scope and Methods of Historical Studies

Professor Ann Waltner (with input from students in History 8015, University of Minnesota, fall 2015)
The book reviews which follow are the first installment of a series of 14 book reviews written in the context of “Scope and Methods of Historical Studies,” a required course for first-year history graduate students which I taught at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2015.

I structured a set of assignments to prepare students to produce publishable reviews. I first asked them to read five book reviews (of their choice) and post a paragraph on the class website about what made a good book review. After the students selected the books they were to review (which were by and large selected from a list I provided), I assigned a second reader to each book to serve as an “expert” peer reviewer. I did this at least in part because I knew I would not have time to read all fourteen books within the fairly tight time frame I had set and I wanted each student to have feedback from someone who had read the book. We devoted an entire two and a half hour class period to peer review; students received feedback from their “expert” reader as well as from other students. I also gave the students extensive comments, which focused on sharpening arguments and making the reviews more reader-friendly. Several students came by my office to discuss process of writing the reviews. I graded a “final” version of the reviews which took into account the comments from their peer reviews as well as my comments. I did one more round of editing before I sent the reviews to Professor Liang.

The book review assignment was productive in a number of ways. The initial assignment of reading and writing about book reviews provoked students to think critically about what a book review is and does. In general there were no surprises: students agreed that a good book review summarized the argument of the book and placed the book in a historiographic context. There was consensus that a good review is concise and clear. Many of them commented that a good review should enable the reader to know whether or not the book under review was worth reading. But reading the reviews did raise some questions in the students’ minds. How critical should a reviewer be? How much of him or herself should a reviewer insert in the book review? The question of how a reviewer, especially a junior scholar, should articulate criticisms of a book in a way that is thoughtful and respectful remained one we discussed throughout the process of writing and revising.

The peer reviews were an important stage in the process of revising. The strategy of assigning “expert” readers was particularly effective. Students reported that feedback from someone who had read the book was enormously useful. One student commented that it was particularly useful to have a reader who was not an expert in the field: the non-expert questions pushed him to clarify points in the review. Another student wrote “I struggled with how to work with unfamiliar material and having an informed viewpoint was really the only way forward.”

Students also found the experience of being a peer reviewer to be useful, in some cases surprisingly useful. They commented that seeing their peers’ strengths and weaknesses was helpful to them in structuring their own reviews. And more than one student suggested that it was useful to see how their peers struggled in writing book reviews. It made the process of writing more transparent.

The process of peer review also enhanced the collaborative atmosphere of the classroom.

The most important outcome of the assignment, though, is happening on these pages as you read the reviews. As the students were writing the reviews, they were thinking about you, the readers, and that gave a different value to the process of writing. Most student writing is seen only by the instructor; sometimes it is read by classmates. This sort of writing gives students the skills to develop ideas, to hone writing skills. But it is an exercise which communicates only within a limited circuit. We are training students to communicate, to interact with a larger scholarly world, to understand how to express themselves effectively. There is no better way to learn how to write for an audience than to do it, and to do it in the context of a classroom, with input from classmates and an instructor.

WaltnerReviewsForumSpring2016themiddlegroundjournal.org

(c) 2016 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 12, Spring, 2016. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Ongoing Forum: Book Reviews and the Teaching of World History

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The Middle Ground Journal Ongoing Forum: Book Reviews and the Teaching of World History
Editors: Dr. Birgit Schneider and Dr. Hong-Ming Liang

This forum has two goals. It seeks, in general, to establish a platform for discussing different approaches to teaching world history, including different class formats, different course structures and content, etc. In addition, it strives to evaluate the use of book reviews as a tool for teaching and assessment. The forum is based on my teaching of HIST3029, “Transnational History: A New Approach to the Past” at the University of Hong Kong in the spring semester of 2014. My own class shall merely serve as a starting point; I would like to encourage contributors to share their experiences or ideas about these two (and other related) aspects of teaching. This can include (and is not limited to) different contents, methodologies, and formats of teaching in the broad context of world history. The forum is intended as a space in which the gap between teaching and research is bridged through reflection on teaching per se, and especially teaching as it relates to research and the academic discipline.

Submissions to the forum should be in one of the following formats:
– Case studies outlining specific courses and their approach to relevant topics of this forum (3000-4000 words)
– Discussions of methodology, assignments, or other teaching or assessment tools (500-1000 words)
– Comments discussing existing case studies (up to 500 words)

Case studies and longer discussions will be peer reviewed, while comments will only undergo review by the editor and be posted as is (unless irrelevant or inappropriate).
The Middle Ground Journal is an open-access, refereed journal of world history and global studies housed at The College of St. Scholastica and published by the Midwest World History Association (MWWHA). We do not charge fees any type to our authors, readers and reviewers. Additional information on the journal is available at: https://www.facebook.com/middlegroundjournal  and at: http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm

General inquiries on the journal should be sent to Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, HLIANG@CSS.EDU

Forum Introduction – Professor Birgit Schneider, Ph.D. Schneider IntroForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
Book Review: Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population – Matthew Connelly SchneiderConnellyForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
Book Review: Melancholy Order – Joo Hun Han SchneiderHanForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
Book Review: Salt: a world history – Hu Ke SchneiderHuForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
Book Review: The Europeanization of the World – William Edward Wilson SchneiderWilsonForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
First Reflective Essay – Class Schneider First ReflectionForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org
Second Reflective Essay – Class SchneiderSecondReflectionForumSpring2015themiddlegroundjournal.org

(c) 2015 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 10, Spring, 2015. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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