In the second half of 2011, Deakin University introduced a new history unit titled AIH399 Making History. Offered at the third-year level and designed as an unofficial “capstone” unit, as its title suggests it has been designed to allow students to join with the teaching staff in the making of history. The unit is underpinned by the core aims of equipping students with advanced historical skills by presenting them with opportunities to research and write history in ways that extend beyond the conventional or standard format of producing an essay in direct response to a set question.
Making History is divided into two six-week modules, coordinated by different teaching staff and based on their current areas of historical interest. One of the modules set for the cohort of students based at Deakin’s Geelong campus presented an opportunity to produce an article to be published in a specially designated section of the APH website. Given that it was something of a pedagogical experiment, teaching staff decided to limit this module to the Geelong campus owing to the smallish number of enrolments involved, which helped to keep it manageable.
The students were set the challenge of producing an article within six weeks. Rather than being given a list of sample topics from which they could choose, students had to “start from scratch” and develop their own topic. The only stipulation was that, in keeping with the aims of the APH Network, students had to link their chosen historical theme with a current policy or debate in such a way that policymakers can learn from the past to effect positive change in the present or future. Students were given the option of whether their article would be published on the website (they could complete the module without choosing to do so). Most but not all eagerly accepted the somewhat unique invitation for an undergraduate student to have their work published in a public space developed and maintained by a nationwide network of professional historians.
What you can access here are the fruitful outcomes of an innovative approach to the teaching and learning of history. The students, of course, were guided through the six-week module as they took the steps from developing a topic to conducting research through to writing the article. As you’ll notice, given such freedom they took off in all different directions and so, collectively, they have covered a diverse and interesting selection of topics.
The articles published here are more or less the pieces that students produced in order to meet their obligations for completing the unit. The only alterations are that they have been formatted in the style used for all APH articles, and prior to publication each piece was brushed over with a very light editorial broom.