Teaching Materials

Sample material #1 – Alternate Final Exam, Contemporary Western Civilization, Spring 2020

This assignment was designed as an alternate to a traditional final exam (see Sample Assignment #5) during the COVID-19 transition to online teaching in Spring 2020. My students overwhelmingly voted to attempt this new format, and produced thoughtful, detailed, powerful oral reflections on connections between seminal texts in the Core Curriculum and the lessons they were drawing on from those works to help them understand and respond to their circumstances in the pandemic. Multiple students commented on how refreshing they found this assignment format to be, and how it gave them a new appreciation for the applicability, or otherwise, of texts which could so often seem detached from or irrelevant to the modern world in a philosophical sense. (Click here for PDF)

Sample material #2 – ‘You Are Machiavelli’ Activity

This activity is designed to connect centuries-old material with themes and problems in contemporary life, and to help students practice finding and communicating textual evidence. It also allows for small-group work and the chance for pairs or trios of students to present their findings/arguments to their peers. The choice they make between the answers to these various scenarios depends on the circumstances they are considering – for example, in example #2, their choice might depend to a great extent on their personal ethics regarding economic transactions, which they could then compare to Machiavelli’s own moral code (or lack thereof). (Click here for PDF)

Sample material #3 – ‘Chart of Christianities’

I wrote this chart to help elucidate the differences between the various Protestant sects we encountered in the course of a class on Early Modern European history. I had found that my students accrued a good deal of confusion around the differences (and the meaning of those differences) between these sects, which was hampering their ability to understand the import of those distinctions – namely, that the difference between Catholic and protestant, or protestant and protestant, groups was literally a matter of life or death in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I have used this chart with several groups of students, and always found that they appreciated having these details clarified so that they could turn their focus to the implications behind them, and to the devastation wreaked by European religious wars. (Click here for PDF)

Sample material #4 – Reading Guide

I developed these reading guides to accompany every class session I taught in Contemporary Western Civilization. Given the rapid pace and extreme breadth of reading CC students are asked to complete, I felt that giving some sort of advice to students about the sorts of questions they would do well to keep in mind while they read would help to focus their minds on the major themes of each work, and to avoid the distraction of extraneous or obtuse material. The links at the bottom of each guide provided a pathway to further information for highly motivated students, and the comprehension questions served as a model for types of short-answer questions I frequently included on midterm and final exams, so the guides collectively served as a study guide for the course at large. (Click here for PDF)

Sample material #5 – Final Exam, Contemporary Western Civilization, Fall 2019

This final exam is designed to test several different skills. The passage identifications, first, demonstrate a good memory for the topics of our texts and that students can distinguish between the literary styles of various authors. For the short answers, I rewarded concise, efficient writing which identified as many details as possible about the topic in question, based on recollection of class discussions. Finally, the essay asks students to consider large conceptual or thematic issues and coherently tie together, either by comparison or contrast, major works of the CC canon. (Click here for PDF)

Sample material #6 – Essay Prompts

My essay prompts attempt to define specific topics of inquiry while also allowing students considerable latitude in addressing all or only parts of major questions, or indeed allowing them complete freedom to design a rigorous prompt of their own. This sheet is accompanied by one-on-one meetings with every student to discuss their selection of texts and the outline of their papers, and an in-class demonstration and practice of Chicago Style citation guidelines. (Click here for PDF)