Coverage vs. uncoverage: A perspective from history

The CELT blog has addressed the challenges of “coverage” a few times this year, particularly in relation to active learning, making a case for thinking of courses in terms not of “coverage” but of “uncoverage,” training students in the thinking, researching, and communication skills they need to make their own discoveries about the course’s subject matter. Most basically, we can think of these two models as the “give someone a fish” vs. “teach someone to fish” schools of thought. (Whether the CELT director practiced, in his history of Christian thought survey, what he preached here in the blog is another matter entirely.)

Faculty Focus recently gave an award to an article that argued for the “uncoverage” model in that longstanding staple of “coverage”: the history survey. The authors, Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker of the University of Wisconsin system, make the case for survey courses to help students to “think like historians” rather than master a set of facts. According to the authors, it is the disciplinary thinking skills (and not, I’ll add, simply “critical thinking” skills) that will best serve students not only in college but as citizens.

Maryellen Weimer describes the article’s findings here. The article itself, “The end of the history survey course: The rise and fall of the coverage model,” can be accessed via Academic Search Premier, ERIC, and other databases.

As you plan your courses for next year (that is, when you’re not relaxing in a hammock), how are you thinking through the tricky problem of coverage? Do you think Sipress and Voelker have a useful approach?


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