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A Practical Compromise to Teaching World History: Thematic Bridges, Standards, and Technology

Maritere López and Melissa Jordine,
California State University, Fresno


     The debate about world history courses has changed considerably over the last two decades.1 While early articles on the subject focused mainly on explanations of and justifications for world history courses, current articles tend to focus on appropriate content and teaching strategies instead, taking heed of the plea for going beyond teaching "West and the rest" courses.2 This trend came in the wake of a speedy and almost universal adoption of World History into both K-12 and university curricula, either as a replacement for Western Civilization courses or as a complement to them. The surprising speed with which changes have been adopted has meant that most teachers of World History are not specialists in the area. The drive to introduce such courses has also meant that their implementation in practice has often been uneven and lacked structure, leaving those of us in the trenches to find how to tackle what is an often unruly subject with which students are too frequently unfamiliar. This article presents two professors' attempts to do just that: that is, to teach World History effectively, improving both students' content knowledge and their analytical abilities. Crucial to this process have been three particular endeavors: first, the development of a composite approach which addresses the divide between teaching either regions or themes; second, the creation of assignments which address transparently the imperfections of the California History/Social Science Content Standards, allowing us to use them to discuss World History education more generally; and third, the introduction and selective use of technology in the classroom as a means to confront students' limited prior preparation and to maximize on the computer literacy of our students. These endeavors, which together amount to a practical compromise to the teaching of World History, have allowed us to grapple successfully with the problems inherent in such a complex subject while responding to our particular institutional circumstances. We hope that our answers offer other instructors likely strategies to adopt or adapt, as well as ideas to further the conversation about how to teach World History most effectively.

     Our experience, while not necessarily unique in its broad outlines, has been shaped in part by our own training, in part by the many requirements that our World History survey courses have been expected to fulfill at California State University, Fresno, and in part by the distinctive nature of our audience. To begin, although we both were trained as European historians, we were also trained as teachers of World History by experts in the field, serving as assistants in our respective Ph.D. programs. That preparation smoothed the way in some respects, particularly because our early experiences afforded us good examples of what, in our opinion, worked in the classroom—as well as what did not. Most importantly, we got a glimpse of both the strengths and weaknesses of the global approach that most World Historians espouse as the ideal, and that we thought to emulate. However, when faced with the task of teaching a new two-course World History sequence, we realized that our experiences as TAs were simply not enough to "get it right." Therefore, our efforts have since included not only a continual "tinkering" with our respective syllabi, but also ongoing participation in World History Association conferences, discussion lists, and publications related to World History pedagogy.3

     The practical problems presented by our informal training are compounded by the myriad requirements World History courses at Fresno State must fulfill. First developed to meet the World History requirement for future teachers currently in the university's liberal studies program, our classes must not only offer content and help develop students' cognitive skills, but also transparently discuss correct pedagogy. Since they are also denominated as lower-division General Education courses, both halves of the sequence also carry minimum writing requirements and formulaic learning outcomes not necessarily in keeping with our own priorities.4 Finally, hoping to improve our own majors' World History content knowledge, the courses have been added to the list of lower-division history electives. All this means that our courses must reach both the layperson and historian-in-the-making, offering enough background information to serve as foundation to the former without boring and alienating the latter, while also consciously presenting various teaching modes and meeting the broad requisites of our General Education program.

     For us, and even greater challenge to effective World History pedagogy is the nature of our student body. To say that it is diverse is an understatement, and perhaps even trite. It is nonetheless true. Like many other public universities, we serve students coming from different ethnic, linguistic, social, and economic backgrounds. More importantly, our students come from widely different academic settings, bringing to the course dramatically uneven levels of literacy and cognitive ability. The challenges such diversity presents to the teacher of World History are compounded in our experience by an apparent commonality among our students: the fact that even the best prepared of them come to the course with a dismaying lack of content knowledge about World History and global geography. As another public university professor, Anthony J. Steinhoff, so aptly put it, "the overwhelming majority of American college students," ours included, "encounters world history as if it were Martian history."5 Their lack of familiarity with the subject at first surprised us, since this generation of students is supposed to have been taught at least the basics in K-12 institutions. More to the point, this unfamiliarity has inevitably shaped the strategies we have developed to teach World History effectively.

     Although the difficulties above raise many pedagogical issues, for the sake of brevity we concentrate here on the three we listed above: the inevitable choice between teaching a geographically-defined or a thematic survey, the impact of the California History Social Science Standards on baccalaureate level courses, and the extent to which technology can be used to best effect in the World History classroom. We hope to demonstrate that the answer to the challenges of teaching World History is not "one size fits all." Rather, in order to find the most effectual strategies, each of us must consider the content information and teaching strategies made available by colleagues in the field, and then create the most helpful model to deal with our specific circumstances.

A Composite Approach: Bridging Thematic and Regional Histories

     One of the inherent problems in teaching World History is the tremendous amount of material to be covered during one term of no more than fifteen weeks. This is exacerbated, of course, when prior content knowledge is likely to be sketchy. Currently, the debate on what exactly to include centers on two major approaches, the regional and the thematic, each seemingly at odds with the other. The regional approach, which some critics have termed the "geographical box" or "civilizations" model, concentrates on the historical developments of each geographical area—Europe, India, Asia, Africa, and America—in turn.6 Following this model, teachers might start with the inception of civilization in Mesopotamia and go on to discuss the broad sweep of Western civilization to the Reformation, say, before turning to antiquity in another part of the globe. This approach seems particularly effective for reaching students who are completely unfamiliar with the traditions of each society under scrutiny, and thus need "basic information about important individuals, places, and events."7 However, even while avoiding the hazard of teaching a "West and the rest" course by giving equal time and weight to civilizations across the globe, the regional approach nevertheless tends to overwhelm students with massive amounts of material seemingly unrelated and not conducive to an understanding of the way in which societies have historically interacted. This approach also compartmentalizes the experiences of historical actors, too often ignoring the links which allow one to argue for global history as a viable, and teachable, topic.

     This is in fact the main weakness of the regional approach, to which its critics draw most attention. Proponents of the thematic approach argue instead for teaching an "integrative global perspective" which, as Jerry H. Bentley explains, "deals with problems and processes that work their effects on a large, interregional, hemispheric, or even global scale."8 In other words, the global approach highlights links and interactions between historical actors in different regions, as well as large-scale patterns world-wide.9 Following this model, then, teachers might concentrate on explorations and migrations, for example emphasizing the ". . . history of mobility and mobilization, of trade and merchants, of migrants and diasporas, of travelers and communication."10 Another likely strategy proposed by scholars of the global approach is to draw direct comparisons between societies across space and time, say Han China and the Roman Empire or Tokugawa Japan and industrial Europe, as a means to understanding "important world-historical themes like revolution, modernization, state-building, and industrialization."11 While this approach is more in keeping with the spirit of World History than is the regional one, its proponents seem to downplay the degree of prior knowledge necessary for such an approach to make sense to students. Instead, some scholars argue that instructors just need to teach world history courses "better than other courses."12 The implication is that university professors who do not wholeheartedly embrace the thematic approach "reject" it not because of its practical limitations but because they "lack enthusiasm for tackling the pedagogical problems of a world history survey."13

     While definitely not lacking enthusiasm, and in theory whole-heartedly advocating a truly global survey, in practice we have had to compromise. That is, we have found that an emphasis on trans-national and comparative history only makes sense to our students if we first give "local" or regional history its place in the curriculum. Just as a brick wall cannot be built without individual bricks, so does a true understanding of the interaction of world cultures depend on getting down first the relevant facts about each society involved. Still, the issue remains one of balance. How can one successfully teach both independent regions and overarching themes? As James Palmitessa found out when teaching his own survey at Western Michigan University, the integration of individuals and local communities into a larger, thematic narrative is tricky, to say the least. As he tells us in a narrative of his own experiences, his own attempt fell short of his expectations. "In practice, this material appeared out of context with the rest of the narrative, reminding us of earlier attempts to integrate the history of women or the history of daily life into Western Civilization textbooks and courses."14 Palmitessa goes on:

There are some important models that successfully integrate local communities and regions with global developments, such as Nicholas Thomas' work on Pacific Island cultures. However, it does not appear to us that global historical scholarship has fully come to terms with local studies. In any event, we believe that the pedagogical challenge of successfully integrating the experiences of individuals and small communities into world history remains unsolved.15

     While not claiming to have solved the challenge, we have nevertheless found one possible solution, which we have termed the "composite" or "bridge" approach to the teaching of World History. Offering a viable compromise between regional and thematic World History while remaining both historiographically aware and accessible to our specific audience, this approach follows a module structure in which two major regions are first studied in order, followed by a thematic bridge in which a particular comparative or trans-national issue related to them is explored. For example, in module one of the first half of the survey, students first investigate the historical development of Mesopotamia and Egypt, respectively. We devote two or three days of lecture and discussion to each region, during which we trace their major political, social, and cultural attributes. In order to cover material in a manageable way, we assign students a textbook reading with general background information, and highlight or expand upon relevant facts in lecture.16 We also assign and analyze primary sources, usually of about twenty to forty pages, so as to immerse students in the culture of the specific society under scrutiny. Once students have a basic grasp of the "local" history of Mesopotamia and Egypt, we move on to a two-day bridge which investigates ancient migratory patterns and cultural interactions by way of the history of the Ancient Hebrews. This first bridge highlights the Hebrews' departure from Mesopotamia to Palestine, their move to Egypt, and their subsequent exodus back to Palestine, all the while underscoring the Hebrew selective absorption of both Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultural "artifacts," an acculturation particularly clear in Old Testament accounts of the Hebrews' early history.

     World History teachers may choose to stress different aspects of this acculturation, discussing the difference between, and relevance of, Jewish and Egyptian monotheisms, for example, or the differing kingship styles of each of the three societies. Instructors can also choose from among a myriad of possible modules. Our subsequent sections include, among others, surveys of ancient Indian and Chinese political and socio-cultural structures respectively, with emphasis on their particular religio-philosophical traditions, followed by a bridge on the Silk Road as both an economic and cultural highway. In this bridge section, the focus is on the ways in which Buddhism traveled from India to China, and the process of acculturation whereby statues of the Buddha, for example, began to look Chinese as the religion journeyed East. A third module traces first the history of the ancient African kingdoms of Ghana, Aksum and Mali, and then moves to the regional history of the Arab world and the rise of Islam within it. The bridge for this module subsequently investigates the politics of religious expansion through an examination of trade routes and Islamic conquests in West Africa. (For further details and other module examples, see the attached sample syllabus and schedule.)

     As the above sample modules suggest, our composite approach is inherently selective, never all inclusive. It therefore shares in both the strengths and weaknesses of the regional and thematic approaches. Nevertheless, as we have discovered, our method not only offers a conduit through which local histories can be made relevant to a broader story, but also makes material we are introducing for the first time manageable and memorable. In this way, we are answering the appeal to create "frameworks in which 'local' history can flourish while becoming more aware of its global historicity."17

History/Social Science Content Standards and World History Courses

     Our decision to compromise between a regional and a global approach to World History has also been motivated and limited by the nature of the current History/Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools. First introduced in 1998, and meant to guide teachers as they choose the content and focus of their courses as well as to provide a basis for state-wide content knowledge assessments, the standards have become the driving force behind K-12 social science education. Therefore, for better or worse, they have shaped the way in which teachers have taught—and students have learned—the subject since. 18 Dividing World History into the major temporal categories of Ancient, Medieval/Early Modern, and Modern, the standards highlight important historical actors and promote critical analysis of the development of geographical areas and/or chronologically-bounded eras. Interspersed throughout are comparative sections meant to draw attention to "large-scale processes that help to explain the experiences of peoples in most or all of the world."19 In our experience, however, the format of the standards has often been interpreted as a laundry list of regional content to be covered in class and assessed in standardized tests, an approach which discourages teachers' selection of material for deeper thematic investigation. Due to the number of future teachers in our classroom and as a result of discussions with the education department (and given the fact that nearly all of our current students were taught history at the K-12 level based on these standards), we are compelled to address the standards in our world history courses.

     This is problematic, in part because the standards are "an extremely weak set" comprised of "a very unruly mix of cryptic western civilization, warmed over twentieth-century American history, and severely abbreviated area studies."20 At the heart of detractors' complaints are several major perceived weaknesses, two of which are inherently related. First, the standards under-emphasize several regions and topics, like pre-Columbian America and Southeast Asia, resulting in "lost educational opportunities or even a somewhat skewed version of the world's past."21 As Bentley explains, citing an example:

Standards does not ignore the early Americas, but does concentrate almost exclusively on complex societies in Mesoamerica and the Andes region. If one of the goals of world history is to encourage students to come to grips with difference, Standards might have usefully focused some attention on the agricultural mound-building societies of North American and the nomadic hunting-and-gathering societies of both American continents.22

     Bentley's assertion leads to the second major complaint about the standards: the fact that, notwithstanding attempts to "globalize" the curriculum, an over-emphasis on the European experience during modern times endures. We are still in "West and the rest" territory, regardless of the many advances current research has made in explaining the complex nature of global historical interactions. The main consequence of this skewed focus is that, as Bentley implies, students miss learning at the K-12 level about some of the processes and traditions crucial to the world's development.

     Moreover, standards-based world history education often disregards many of the crucial complexities of the field, offering students an unsophisticated vocabulary and ignoring scholarly debates regarding some specific movements and periods in history. The standards not only are written in their own language (a combination of terms and phrases that are neither scholarly nor part of ordinary usage), but also frequently use terms incorrectly, offering definitions wholly inconsistent with scholarly usage. In our view, this is the most serious weakness of the standards and the issue that poses the greatest difficulty for University-level world history instructors. For example, Section 10.7.3 of the California History/Social Science Content Standards is worded as follows: "Analyze the rise, aggression, and human costs of totalitarian regimes (Fascist and Communist) in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, noting especially their common and dissimilar traits."23 This standard uses the term "totalitarian" without providing a specific definition, as though indicating a unified ideology or system that applies broadly. In this approach, the standard ignores crucial scholarly nuances of the word, failing to recognize it as a descriptive term emphasizing specific traits that different states or systems have in common.

     More problematically, this standard also clearly implies that Germany and Italy were both Fascist states, asking students to compare this "generic" fascism with the communist regime in the Soviet Union. The problem here is that the term "fascism" is culture-specific, closely tied to the particular beliefs embraced by Mussolini and his followers. The origin of the term is well-known: it comes from the movement founded by Mussolini and others, whose followers were known as Fasci di Combattimento, or Fascisti (Fascists in English).24 Moreover, in the term are also apparent some characteristics intrinsic to the movement, particularly the group's admiration for ancient Rome and their adoption of practices and terms relating to the Roman period. For example, the ancient Roman word fasces (bundle), from which the term fascism developed, referred to the axe, surrounded by a bundle of rods, which Roman lictors carried when walking in procession ahead of consuls, praetors, and dictators. Scholars therefore stress that the term reflected Mussolini's dream of creating a new "Roman Empire" and cannot be divorced from his ideology or from its foundation in Italian history and culture. Such links are not applicable to other European regimes of the period, making it problematic, to say the least, to refer to Hitler and his Party as Fascists, regardless of the clear influence which Mussolini's model and policies had on them.

     Although Hitler also formed a paramilitary force and advocated both territorial expansion and the use of violence to overthrow the current system and establish a new order, as did Mussolini, he had to appeal not to an Ancient Roman past but to German nationalism. As a result, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), or Nazi Party, is fundamentally different from Fascism in Italy. The fact that these two movements have more differences than similarities is the most compelling reason why they should not be classified or referred to by the same term, even if the term is broad and general as are both "totalitarian" and "dictatorships." To refer to Nazism as Fascist is inaccurate and, at core, objectionable. Therefore, at the University level we must disabuse students of the idea that these movements are fundamentally identical, correcting the inaccurate understanding to which they were introduced in their standards-based K-12 education.

     While the standards do not necessarily drive the college World History survey as it does K-12 education, it does have an impact, as made clear by the example above. In order to teach world history effectively and help our students do the same in turn, we must therefore not only cover a great deal of the content included in the Standards without effacing broad themes, but also address differences between these standards and scholarly debates. Much to our surprise, this last issue has been for us the problem easiest to solve. Turning a seeming weakness into the core of our transparent pedagogy, we utilize the most problematic standards, such as the one dealing with Fascism, to illustrate not only discrepancies between standards and ongoing historical discourse, but also the need for teachers to be aware of such differences.

     A practical method for discussing these "Pedagogic Discrepancies" is to have students read the given standard and compare it to relevant sections in the textbook, which often do differentiate Fascism and Nazism, unlike the standards, but still closely connect the two movements.25 Students are then assigned primary documents, such as a speech by Mussolini outlining Fascism and one by Hitler discussing key aspects of National Socialism, and asked to compare both the speeches and the movements each outlines. This part of the exercise is followed in class by a lecture in which we offer specific information about Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and discuss the ways in which scholarly views of these regimes have changed between 1933 and the present. Finally, we devote the last part of class to a discussion in which students weigh the differences between the three "sources" they were given and talk about possible ways to learn about and incorporate updated research into their own future classes. Our core lesson here is that future teachers' historiographical awareness will make them better teachers, a message which our students seem both to enjoy and appreciate.

Technology and World History Pedagogy

     A third area of particular concern to us has been the introduction and effective use of technology in the classroom, an undertaking strongly encouraged by our particular institution. Like T. Mills Kelly, co-director of the World History Matters digital project and a strong proponent of complementing traditional pedagogy with technological resources, we are convinced that the World History survey is a particularly apt venue for this process. As Kelly explains, "in World History we demand that our students cross national, regional, methodological, and temporal boundaries on a daily basis and the digital world facilitates this sort of boundary-crossing."26 Moreover, since we are willing to explore all pedagogical tools that may help us teach in a better and more nuanced way, it seemed to us apparent that we should maximize on our students' familiarity with technology and the internet, a fluency that is almost universal in our student body. Notwithstanding some minor glitches in the implementation of our plan, we have found the use of technology rewarding overall, as it has helped us reach students more efficiently and at their own pace, while better managing the flow of information we make available to them.

     To use technology well, we have taken advantage of the extensive infrastructure made available to us at Fresno State. In contrast to many other institutions where computer accessibility is limited and technical support is spotty at best, we benefit from a broad Digital Initiative funded in part by a federal Title V grant. A core component of this initiative is the full availability to students of computers and technical support; another is the use of BlackBoard as our digital educational platform. Together, these components guarantee controlled yet continuous access to course materials, an access which has allowed us to target different learning styles and paces. The Digital Initiative has not only targeted students; faculty are also offered myriad technology workshops, all geared to make us as computer savvy as most of our students. However, while the program has helped us improve our use of technology generally, it does not offer the topic-specific training necessary "to tap the full potential of digital media for World History teaching."27 For that, we have had to turn to venues such as World History journals and conferences, as well as the many digital forums now available specifically to discuss how to teach the subject to best effect.28

     Once we decided to use technology, we focused on three distinct goals: first, to make easier some of the more cumbersome tasks related to managing a large survey course; second, to take advantage of the many digital sources now available online; and third, to make our own materials more readily available to students while targeting different learning styles. While quite time-consuming in its initial stages, the online managing of the course has proven quite effectual for us. At the most basic level, streamlined email and communication forums allow us to keep in touch with students without having our personal inboxes flooded, affording us greater control over the amount of time we spend on this aspect of course bureaucracy. Moreover, the use of Blackboard has helped us better assess students' progress during the course, through a series of exams and assignments accessed and completed on-line. These allow both teachers and students to better measure their base knowledge and skill level, as well as track their acquisition of greater content knowledge and analytical ability. The number of assessments we use is, in our opinion, only possible because students complete many of them outside of class via the internet, and because Blackboard grades and provides comments according to rubrics we have previously created. Such an approach to assessment means that we can concentrate our grading efforts on key assignments, like the comparative essays on bridge themes, without compromising the quality or detail of commentary we can offer in response. Allowing the submission of some assignments on-line has also made it easier for students who work (as well as those who live at considerable distances from campus) to submit their work on time, avoiding penalties they are otherwise likely to accrue.

     Equally important, through the inclusion of technology in the World History survey we have been able to maximize on the ready availability of both primary and secondary sources online. While careful to guide students through the possible pitfalls of excessive information that is too often of uneven quality and questionable provenance, we have been able to offer students a richer and far more complex research-based experience in the learning of World History. Most successful thus far has been the implementation of group projects which aim at the development and presentation of one of the "bridge" lectures which form the core of our composite approach. Students' lectures must be based on independent research, allowing students both to follow their own lines of inquiry and to develop their own pedagogical skills. Further, the project requires that students, both future teachers and history majors, work in concert through three major steps: the choosing of a viable topic, the fleshing out of details through the gathering of both "hard-copy" and digitally available information, and the presentation of their findings, including the use of multimedia and the analysis of a related key primary source. (For further details, see the attached Project Guidelines.) While all of these steps can be achieved in "traditional" ways, the choice to use technology as a complement reflects our sense that students need to confront in a mediated way the new research frontiers forged by the internet, to better understand and selectively use all available sources.

     Our last goal has been to make our own course materials more accessible to students, targeting the different learning styles of a very diverse student audience. We now consistently post not only selected documents but also potential discussion questions in advance, so that students who take longer to read, and those who need greater guidance in approaching primary sources, can prepare extensively prior to in-class discussion. We also make available lecture outlines and/or PowerPoint presentations prior to class, allowing students to concentrate in lecture on the ideas we present, rather than having them attempt to write down whatever is posted on the board, often at the cost of missing relevant information. They can also access our multi-media tools, such as images and interactive maps, in order to review them. In fact, students have proven more likely to come back to class with specific questions when they are allowed more time to digest the materials we have used in the classroom. Likewise, we have discovered that students often participate in discussion more frequently and in more thoughtful ways if given the opportunity to absorb both readings and discussion questions at their own pace. Therefore, although we do not curtail in-class discussion to any significant degree, we have begun to use the Discussion Board component made available through BlackBoard as a supplemental venue for students' grappling with the course material. Without this tool, we were missing the significant—and often complex—points which students otherwise too shy or uncertain to participate in class have to offer.

     Unanimously, students evaluate the availability of materials, and the opportunity this affords them to work through class assignments at their own pace, as one of our course's greatest strengths. Does this mean that our use of technology in the World History classroom helps students learn more, or better? In our experience, students tend at least to respond more positively to, and achieve a better grasp of, the material than they did before. They also seem to handle primary sources more adroitly when given the chance to utilize digital skills they already possess, and the challenge of critically choosing their sources appears to invigorate their desire to use them. Likewise, those who struggled to read the textbook and/or were unable to take effective notes seem to understand more when given an alternative venue which allows them to take in material at their own pace, but not in isolation. These preliminary observations, however, do not necessarily mean that we must all use technology every minute of every class, abandoning traditional, time-proven methods. Instructors whose institutions do not provide the same technological infrastructure, and those who disagree with the broad use of technology as a pedagogical tool, may instead institute in "hard copy" some of the interactive strategies we have detailed here. Still, our distinct experiences thus far point to us the need to utilize whatever tools we have available to ensure student engagement and learning; technology is for us simply one more—albeit ubiquitous—such device. Finally, it would be naïve to assume that if we avoid technology, our students will too; the opposite is more likely true. In fact, if we fail to demonstrate how technology can be used well as an effective research and pedagogical tool, we might miss a great opportunity both to improve student performance and to advance the goals of World History as a viable—and teachable—subject.

Concluding Remarks

     Our composite approach to teaching World History has proven a successful compromise, allowing us to grapple with the problems inherent in the teaching of such a complex subject while responding to our particular institutional circumstances. The creation of bridge sections considering comparative and/or transnational themes, such as migration and its socio-political effects or trade patterns and their role as conduits for cultural transmission, has allowed us to investigate both regional and global histories effectively, without completely compartmentalizing the history of particular regions or overwhelming students with massive amounts of material. Additionally, our decision to address the imperfections of the California History/Social Science Content Standards, using them as an opportunity to discuss World History education transparently, has improved both our student's understanding of the academic subject and their engagement with it as future teachers. Finally, our decision to address the educational needs of our students through the selective use of technology, thus allowing for the digestion of material at a more individualized pace, has helped improve both their grasp of the material and their overall performance. From our perspective, the tactics we have discussed have an added bonus: since each instructor can choose what regional lectures and thematic bridges to offer, as well as whether to introduce standards-based and technological issues into discussion, the approach is flexible and easily made to fit one's comfort level with World History as a subject without compromising its overall quality.

     Our success so far has motivated us to think of additional ways to improve the course we now teach. In particular, we hope to achieve a greater consistency in the quality of our bridge sections across all modules, further balancing the degree to which we address regional histories and themes, respectively. We also hope to develop a stronger and more diverse set of modules for the second half of the course, which we have not yet been able to transform fully. Lastly, we are considering the development of a slightly different version of the course, specifically for students not in the teacher education program. This version would omit some of the standards-based discussions, thus allowing us to concentrate less on pedagogic issues and increase the number of bridging modules examined. In the implementation of these changes, we hope to be guided not only by the strategies that have proven successful for us, but also by a continued dialogue with colleagues who have encountered and overcome similar problems.

Biographical Note: Dr. Maritere Lopez received her Ph.D. in History from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2003. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Graduate Coordinator at California State University, Fresno's Department of History. Her major field of specialization is early modern European history, particularly the history of women. Dr. Lopez helped develop and currently teaches the first half of the World History survey at Fresno State. She has contributed several pieces to George Mason University's "World History Matters" and "Women in World History" online sites, and has presented at several World History conferences.

Dr. Melissa Jordine is an assistant professor and the Undergraduate Advisor for the Department of History at California State University, Fresno. She earned a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1998. Her major field of specialization is Germany and the Second World War. Dr. Jordine has had considerable experience teaching world history, has graded the AP world history exams and has given paper presentations on teaching world history at various conferences.



1 For the ongoing relevance of the discussion over World History both as a teaching and research field, see Peter N. Stearns, "World History: Curriculum and Controversy," World History Connected 3 no. 3 (July 2006).

2 For a discussion of content and approach in world history courses, see for example Michael Geyer and Charles Bright, "World History in a Global Age," The American Historical Review 100 no. 4 (October 1995), 1034-1060, and George E. Brooks, "An Undergraduate World History Curriculum for the Twenty First Century," World History Journal 1 (1990), 209-223. For a discussion of the need to teach a thematic, "true" world history course, see L.S. Stavrianos, "The Teaching of World History," The History Teacher 3 no. 1 (November 1969), 19-24, and Patricia Lopes Don, "Establishing World History as a Teaching Field: Comments from the Field," The History Teacher 36 no. 4 (August 2003), 505-525.

3 For example, see Melissa Jordine, Cset (Rea) - Best Test Prep for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (Piscataway, NJ: Research and Education Association, 2005); Maritere López, "Daoism," Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History (Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, 2005); and Maritere Lpez and Charles T. Lipp, "The World Seeing Women/Women Seeing the World in the Early Modern Period," Women in World History (

4 For a discussion of the implications of making World History courses part of General Education programs, see Anthony J. Steinhoff, "Taking the Next Step: World History and General Education on the American Campus," World History Connected 3 no. 3 (July 2006).

5 Steinhoff, "Taking," 12 para.

6 Don, "Establishing," 507.

7 James R. Palmitessa and Stephen T. Staggs, "The Successes and Challenges of Teaching World History in the Twenty-First Century: Two Case Studies from Western Michigan," in World History Connected 3, no. 1 (October 2005).

8 Jerry H. Bentley, "The Quest for World-Class Standards in World History," The History Teacher 28, no. 3 (May 1995).

9 See Don, "Establishing," 513 and Bentley, "The Quest," 450.

10 Michael Geyer and Charles Bright, "World History in a Global Age," The American Historical Review 100 no. 4 (October 1995), 1039.

11 Bentley, "The Quest," 450.

12 Joe Gowaskie, "The Teaching of World History: A Status Report," The History Teacher 18, no. 3 (May 1985), 371.

13 Don, "Establishing," 508.

14 Palmitessa and Staggs, "The Successes," 37 para.

15 Palmitessa and Staggs, "The Successes," 37 para.

16 As does World History more generally, textbooks on the subject tend to follow either the regional or the global approach, sharing the practical weaknesses of the respective theoretical category. Regionally focused textbooks fail to offer significant trans-national or comparative content, while thematic texts offer minimal factual information on the different regions under scrutiny, and are thus inaccessible to many of our students. Moreover, as Don laments, only in two recent textbooks have the authors clearly "made integration of global processes the central goal as opposed to comprehensive area studies presentations." ("Establishing," 515) For these reasons, we have chosen to use textbooks that take a regional approach. While not an ideal arrangement, using regionally focused textbooks allows us to concentrate in class on highlighting relevant facts and discussing global subjects, rather than having to supply the factual information needed for the textbook to make sense.

17 Geyer and Bright, "World History," 1040-1041.

18 The California History Social Science Standards are available at

19 Bentley, "The Quest," 452.

20 Don, "Establishing World History," 512.

21 Bentley, "The Quest," 453.

22 Bentley, "The Quest," 453.

23 The California History Social Science Standards, Grade Ten: World History, Culture, and Geography: The Modern World, Standard 10.7.3

24 See Elizabeth Wiskemann, Fascism in Italy: its Development and Influence ( New York: St Martin's Press, 1969). Also, Gaetano Slavemini, The Origins of Fascism in Italy, translated and with an introduction by Roberto Vivarelli (New York: Harper & Row, 1973). For a discussion of "totalitarianism" see Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1958).

25 See, for example, Albert Craig, William Graham, et al., The Heritage of World Civilizations: Teaching and Learning Edition, Brief 3rd Edition, vol. 2 (New York: Prentice Hall, 2007); Jackson J. Spielvogel, World History: Modern Times (New York: Glencoe McGraw Hill, 2006), 470-485.

26 T. Mills Kelly, "The Role of Technology in World History Teaching," World History Connected 3, no. 3.

27 Kelly, "The Role," 12 para.



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