Comments on: A manifesto against “coverage” History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:03:39 +0000 hourly 1 By: Douglas Deal Mon, 16 Mar 2009 16:47:22 +0000 Another “counterblast” at coverage:

Coverage vs. Discovery: Ten
• To cover or discover: that is the question.
• Coverage reflects knowledge and skills of
the teacher, while discovery represents
genuine learning by the student.
• Implicit in the coverage mindset is the
notion that knowledge is a “thing”—more
than that, a neat, tidy, clever thing with
no loose ends, mistakes, or mysteries in
it—that can be deposited in the minds of
students via lectures. Learning is reduced
to storing as much of the “thing” as
possible in short-term memory,
regurgitating relevant portions of it at
exam time, and then dumping it when no
longer needed.
• The discovery approach to learning, in
contrast, entails the idea that knowledge
acquisition is above all an ongoing
process with ever changing results, plenty
of uncertainties, and real staying power.
It happens in the brain of the learner,
which is stimulated to search, store, and
solve by challenging questions and
opportunities to explore these in depth.
Making mistakes and correcting them are
integral parts of the process.
• Coverage pretends to be comprehensive
and “finished.” In fact, it is always
arbitrary, selective, and incomplete—an
illusory goal and a misrepresentation of
genuine learning. Discovery is unique and
memorable—the grasping of a principle or
connection that can be used and reused
without being used up. It can’t be
scheduled, but it can be cultivated.
• The “need to cover” is the most common
excuse teachers give when they find
themselves speeding up the pace of
delivery well beyond the capacity of
students to keep up. Nothing illustrates
better than this the detachment of
coverage from learning.
• Discovery can’t be hurried. It is stimulated
by questions and curiosity. If bent on
“covering the material,” teachers will see
student questions as distractions,
impediments, or unwelcome detours
instead of what they really are—the best
opportunities for learning that any class
can have.
• Coverage saturates the classroom with
routine, regimentation, and predictable
tedium. Discovery is unpredictable and
varied, unsettling and potentially
• The motto of coverage—“what I cover,
they will learn”—mistakenly assigns
agency and responsibility for student
learning to the teacher, not the student.
• Let the student remind the teacher, “what
you want to cover, I want to uncover and
discover for myself!”

Douglas Deal, SUNY
open-source discourse: use as you wish

By: Historiann Mon, 12 Jan 2009 14:22:51 +0000 Prof. Z.–I agree, that’s coverage enough. But, by focusing on 5-6 texts or authors in lit classes, I’m sure you’re still vulnerable to the political charge of not providing enough “coverage.”

By: Professor Zero Mon, 12 Jan 2009 05:35:09 +0000 Coverage – I just don’t do it … can you avoid it? In those surveys I choose “representative” texts or issues in a conservative place, or interesting ones / ones on issues that keep coming up or have recently been in the news, in a more progressive place. Talk about five or six of those in depth and you do end up giving “coverage.”

By: And the envelopes, please… : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 10 Jan 2009 20:22:58 +0000 [...] week, in the midst of a discussion about “coverage” and its many abuses in faculty life and history curricula in general, I suggested that we draw dates from a hat and [...]

By: Indyanna Fri, 09 Jan 2009 03:48:52 +0000 See, leave town for one day in the archives and you end up on the bottom of a 35-comment thread! I too, like Tom, thought there were some tacit synergies between the dynamics of this subject and those of the last great thread (only a day ago?) on historiography and pedagogy. But I can’t articulate them the way he did, so I’ll just leave it there.

In truth, precisely because there are so many different types and sizes of “surveys” within and between the disciplines, and because *early* Americanists by far get the longer “half” of our chronological stick, I switch back and forth between uncovering and covering within the framework of the same semester. I start on the Bering Land “Bridge,” thousands of years ago, and for more than just the rhetorical opener, then I march students east from Cuzco and Tenochtitlan through Pueblo Country to the Mississippi Mounds to poor the poor old backdoor East Coast, before we can turn around and head West. And only then, a week or so in, am I on the beginning of the standard-issue whiggish track. (We have fights all the time over why we have to call it “U.S. History to 1877″ when there *was* no “U.S.” for the vast majority of the timeline, but it’s the educrats up in the State System who insist on this).

Anyway, during the subsequent three and a half standard issue centuries there are lots of places where I want to riff and subvert, and fewer but at least some other places where I’m glad to ride along with the more or less prefabricated story line. In the end, you’ve got to get to the end of the semester with your own brain alive and hopefully most of the class too. And I don’t think there’s any perfect analytical way out of or around the internal contradications of modern curricularism. I do agree with the sense of some commenters that there has to be some constructive gesture toward breadth and context, even in the face of the epistemological truth–and true it is– that there really *is* no such thing as “coverage.”

By: Jeremy Bangs Fri, 09 Jan 2009 02:19:53 +0000 In case you are curious, there’s little or no documentary evidence in Leiden from which a history of cross-dressing fullers’ apprentices’ social mobility can be constructed, at least before 1630 (I haven’t read everything more recent). This means the field is open to be covered by those inclined to retrospective speculation about moods and sentiment, or to writing novels.
- Jeremy Bangs, Leiden

By: James Stripes Thu, 08 Jan 2009 23:09:12 +0000 History is a journey, not a destination; it’s a process, not a product …

Nice! How can coverage be part of the journey without determining every step? We need breadth and depth in ways that neither one excludes the other.

I’ve most struggled with coverage when teaching Native American Indian history at two universities, one private, one public. It is called Native American at one, and American Indian at the other. It is one of those courses that can be undone by the effort to cover everything–”500 years, 500 tribes,” I tell my students.

Having such a course among the student choices gives their total history curriculum broader coverage without necessarily “privileg[ing] traditional and rather exclusionary visions of history.” That’s for the history majors. But the principal rationale for the course, and the draw for most students, is that it meets a distribution requirement for diversity–distribution of science and math, humanities and communication is another sort of coverage, and one that may be the principle cause of continuing employment for many historians. Indeed, the vast majority of my students have not been history majors, and for many, American indigenous history has been their only college history course.

I offered for discussion a critique Jefferson’s “Indian Addresses,” and their effect upon Federal Indian policy only to learn that my students have minimal understanding of when Jefferson was President. Then, we moved into Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia and Jackson’s response made no sense to students that never learned the differences between Executive and Judicial authority in the American system of government.

Consequently, I end up spending half of my time teaching things that I remember learning in high school civics. Ten years ago I was teaching Native American history–an upper division course–as if it were a seminar, and we were focusing on Federal Indian policy, in part because that’s the glue that holds together so many disparate tribal histories, and I learned that more than half the class did not know that the House and the Senate together comprised Congress. One student admitted thinking they were three separate entities. I did a quick poll of my students. Only half of the class had a course in American government of some sort in high school. One of those that had was from Wales, where she majored in American studies. The horror, the horror.

Now I teach this course in five weeks to adult students. They know a little more about American government than the twenty-somethings. Some of them also have taught me things I didn’t know about Jefferson. But, 500 years and 500 tribes in ten four hour class sessions (three and half hours in class, plus breaks) leaves out more than it includes. Fortunately, there is one excellent text–Calloway’s First Peoples, third edition–that offers an abundance of primary documents that helps generate productive and focused class discussion. Then, to supplement the discussion, I have a sequence of terribly long PowerPoint lectures that intersperse timelines and great man and women cameos with other petite recits, such as my declaration that one of the most prolific weeds introduced through the Columbian Exchange was the peach.

In the end, we cover a lot through a form of historical hop-scotch that has time for some focus. I’d love to teach an entire course on Cherokee Removal or the Nez Perce War or the Paha Sapa, but I would have no students. They write the checks.

By: Coverage, Uncoverage, and the purpose of Graduate History Courses « Knitting Clio Thu, 08 Jan 2009 19:55:25 +0000 [...] brings up some similar issues in her blog entry, “A Manifesto against ‘coverage.’”  I agree with her entirely that “coverage” is an [...]

By: Paul Harvey Thu, 08 Jan 2009 19:43:55 +0000 Historiann: On my comment above, Deg’s “uncoverage” course, which he periodically discussed on the blog, covered American religious history pre-colonial to 9/11, so a good 700-800 years there, focused on religious history to be sure but still plenty to test one particular uncoverage approach to a very long period of time, and one way to “blow up the survey.” Thanks for the post and the discussion

By: Historiann Thu, 08 Jan 2009 19:30:13 +0000 And, Janice: good luck. You’re doing the right thing, especially *because* few of your other colleagues are doing it the way you do. What’s wrong with everyone finding their own bliss, faculty and students alike?

You’re exactly right that it’s when students are told something other than the same old whig narrative that they accuse you of not providing “coverage.” It’s a political charge, not an intellectual one, 9 times out of 10.