Mission and Learning Goals
The study of history is central to the liberal arts. It cultivates an informed perspective
on the past, the ability to recognize and analyze far-reaching developments, and an
understanding of diverse societies and their historical experiences.
The Department of History at the College of Wooster aims to instruct students in historical thinking; to give them broad and deep historical knowledge; to cultivate the skills of historical research and the ability to communicate ideas clearly and persuasively.
Our Learning Goals.
The Department of History has identified four goals that students should achieve by the end of their course of studies.
We expect students who complete our program to be able to consider the past in sophisticated and complex ways. This type of engagement with the past includes, but is certainly not limited to: formulating appropriate and interesting historical questions, understanding cause and effect with multiple lines of causation, a thorough understanding of the previous questions asked by historians and how those questions and their answers have changed over time, and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, an understanding of the diversities of cultures and the varieties of historical experience.
By this we mean much more than a simple recitation of names, dates, developments, and facts. Rather, we mean the ability to place facts into different sets of overlapping – often competing – narrative histories of particular peoples, places, and periods. These narratives should include contending interpretations and multiple timelines.
Critical Reasoning Skills.
Our third goal is to teach and to continue to develop in our majors the critical research skills that historians use to investigate and explain the past. These skills include, but are not limited to: analysis of primary sources, critical reading of secondary sources, note taking skills and techniques for management of diverse sources, research organization strategies, and the basic structures and genres of historical writing. Other crucial skills developed in research-focused courses include learning to identify and properly use both primary and secondary sources, and how to understand, appreciate, and apply a variety of historical (and other social science) methodologies and approaches.
Lastly, we strive to help students communicate their findings. Our goal is to help students learn to incorporate historical thinking, historical knowledge, and research skills into complex projects (the largest of which is Independent Study). These projects must not only make an original argument based on evidence, but also address and expand an existing set of literature. Moreover, we seek to promote the student’s ability to communicate clearly and with a compelling style.