Saturday, August 14, 2010

History 111 Syllabus

I thought that I would share the syllabus for the class that I am teaching in the fall.  If you notice any typos, please let me know before the students see it! Some of the formatting, of course, didn't handle the translation from Word very well.


Office Hours: By appointment

History 111
Fall 2010

Course Description

Examines United States history from its beginning to the Civil War. An emphasis will be placed on tracing the development of the American political system, economic institutions, and the U.S. culture during the Colonial Period, the Age of Revolution, the National Era, the Jacksonian Period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Course Schedule

F 2:00 PM – 4:45 M (section W01)
Ada County Campus – Room 1318
Regular 15-week session

Course Focus

The America we live in today is the product of the American past.  There is a mixture of both proud and shameful moments in that past.  Understanding what happened and why can help us avoid repeating the mistakes—and build on the best parts of our history.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:
1.     Assess the impact of the contact and the interchange between the New and Old  Worlds.
2.     Trace the patterns of settlement and the social, political, and economic developments in colonial North America.
3.     Analyze the factors leading to the American Revolution.  Describe the events of the Revolution and its impact upon the people who lived through it.
4.     Trace the social, political, diplomatic, and economic developments during the
Federalist and early Republican periods, 1787-1820.
5.     Trace the social, political, and economic developments of the Age of Jackson, 1820-1840.  Account for Jackson’s popularity and explain how he symbolizes the democratization of American politics.
6.     Account for America’s westward surge during the 1840’s and assess the impact of western expansion.
7.     Account for the growing sectionalism in the nation.  Explain the outbreak of the Civil War 1861-1865, and trace the major military, political, economic, and social developments of the war.
Outcomes Assessment:
We will evaluate how well you (and I) have met the course objectives by multiple-choice quizzes every week (20 points each), the multiple-choice final exam (100 points), and the weekly question based on the assigned reading (20 points each).  This means that you will have to keep up on the assigned reading—but it also means that if you miss or do badly on one quiz or weekly question, or even two or three, it should not destroy your grade in the class.

I do not generally allow make-ups on quizzes.  If you have a note from your doctor explaining that you were too sick to make it to class, I will arrange a make-up quiz.  Missing one quiz, or even two quizzes is not going to destroy your grade.

The weekly questions can be turned in up to one week late—but with a 25% reduction in grade.  More than one week late, I will not accept them.

Textbooks and Required Materials

The assigned textbook is James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, and Susan M. Hartmann, The American Promise: A History of the United States, 4th ed.  This is bundled with Michael P. Johnson, Reading the American Past, 4th ed., a collection of primary source documents.

Methods of Delivery

This class will be primarily lecture and discussion.  The more you come to class having read the assigned reading, the more lively and interesting the discussions will be.  There will be some use of videos, partly because some students learn visually more effectively, and partly because three hours of me talking is too brutal for both of us.  My objective is to take a five-minute break (and only a five-minute break) every hour—but sometimes, a video will take precedence.

Student Contributions

The average student can expect to spend approximately six hours per week preparing for class, including reading, answering the weekly question, and studying for quizzes.

Classroom expectations: cell phones off; no texting; no listening to music once class begins.  Students are reminded to read the CWI Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook.  I do not mind if you use notebook computers to take notes; I strongly object to you using your notebook computer to keep yourself entertained.  There are people who can do several things at once, and do them all well.  My experience is that many people who think that they can do this are mistaken.

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY: All work submitted by a student must represent his/her own ideas, concepts, and current understanding. Cheating or plagiarism in any form is unacceptable and violations may result in disciplinary action.

Course Evaluation

A: 90% and above
B: 80% and above
C: 70% and above
D: 60% and above
F: below 60%

Your final grade will be based on the fourteen quizzes, the fourteen weekly questions, and the final exam.  While I do not formally keep track of who is participating in classroom discussions, if you are on the edge between two grades at the end of the semester, it is definitely in your interest if I can remember who you are.  Classroom participation is a pretty effective strategy for making sure of that.

The Quizzes
There will be a twenty-point quiz every week starting with week two, covering the assigned reading and lecture from the previous week.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough: the lectures and discussions are not a substitute for the assigned reading.  There is more material in the assigned reading than you could ever get from a lecture.  I will tend to emphasize especially important material in my lectures—but you should expect that there will be some questions on the quizzes and the final that we may not have covered in class.  Quizzes will be multiple choice because there are objective facts that you need to know about American history.  The quiz will take place during the first fifteen minutes of each class.

The Weekly Question
Starting with the second week, you will turn in a 1-2 page paper answering a question based on the assigned reading, concerning the major ideas and events contained in that reading.  Your essay will be worth twenty points (the same value as a quiz).  The act of thinking and writing about the question will burn these ideas and events into your memory more effectively than just reading the assigned material.  It also forces you to write—and like most skills, your writing will improve the more you do it.


1. When I say “1-2 page paper” I mean at least a full page of double spaced, 10 or 12 point type. 

2. A proper essay consists of an introduction, a series of paragraphs, and a conclusion.  Think about the question before you start writing.  Expect that you may have to revise the essay a couple of times along the way.  Few students can write a serious essay like this in twenty minutes. 

4. I will be grading your weekly essays both on content and writing skills—and my expectations will increase as the semester passes.  Content is most important, but I do expect complete sentences and coherent writing.  I will be putting some helpful guides to writing up on Blackboard.

5. A poor weekly essay is way better than not turning one in at all.

CWI E-mail and Blackboard Accounts
All registered CWI students receive a college email address and Blackboard account. Every course at CWI has a Blackboard component.  It is the student’s responsibility to access both accounts regularly to avoid missing important messages and deadlines.  Please access Blackboard both to keep up your grades, see announcements, as well as any additional online reading assignments.

Drop Policy

It is the student’s responsibility to drop the course.  Students are responsible for adding and dropping courses.  At the end of the first week of class, faculty may perform faculty initiated drop for non-attendance.  Beyond the first week, it is the student’s responsibility to drop any course he/she does not intend to finish.  Students who stop attending a course without filing a drop request will receive a grade of F.

Special Accommodations

Students with disabilities who believe that they may qualify for accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the One Stop Student Services Center and discuss the possible accommodations with an Enrollment Specialist.  If you have a diagnosed Learning Disability, please initiate this contact as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.  Please contact the One Stop Student Services at 562-3000 or Room 107 – CWI Main Campus.

Suggestions for Success

  1. I strongly encourage you to take notes in class.  Even if you never read your notes later, writing information down helps most students to retain information more effectively than if you only read it in the assigned readings, or hear it in lectures.
  2. Read the assigned pages the weekend before the week for which they are assigned.  Remember that the quiz each week will cover material assigned the previous week.
  3. If parts of the reading confuse you or raise questions, write down your questions and ask them in class.  Even if the questions do not appear on the quiz, wrestling with the material helps to make it stick in your memory more effectively—which has to help your grade.

Course Calendar

Week #
American Promise
5-30, 35-46, 62-65
Why History Matters; Study Habits; Indian America;
The New World
Ch. 3
17th Century Southern Colonies
Ch. 4
17th Century Northern Colonies
Ch. 5
18th Century Colonial America
Ch. 6
Colonial Crisis
Ch. 7
Ch. 8
The New Republic & The Constitution
Ch. 9
Crisis & The Character of George Washington
Ch. 10
One Party Rule
Ch. 11
Ch. 12
The West and The Free North
Ch. 13
The Slave South
Ch. 14
The House Dividing

Thanksgiving Break
Ch. 15
The Civil War
Ch. 16
Finals Week
Final Exam (cumulative, of all material covered in the course)


  1. Clayton,
    This is the next to last sentence in the "quizzes" paragraph: "Quizzes will be multiple choice because there are objective facts that you need to need [sic] about American history."

    From the syllabus' content the course appears to be a worthwhile lower division class.

  2. Course Objectives: #7...and social developments of the war.

    Course Calendar: Week #15... Reconstruction

    Getting a little lost on this one Professor. Do you mean the social developments of the War during the War, or social developments due to the War?

    I'am kind of thinking that #7 might have been:...and social developments in the reunited United States of America following the War.

    Now for some satire from Jon......

    Oh yea, one more question to you Professor. When you lecture on the 13th Amendment, are you gonna talk about the original one that Mr. Lincoln threw in the trash can during the Civil War?

  3. "A poor weekly essay is way better than not turning one in at all."

    Are you sure you want to put it that way when you are telling the students that writing style will form a key part of their grade? I'm not saying I haven't written a syllabus like that, but when you are teaching engineers you tend to get pretty generous in your definition of a coherent sentence. :-)

    You've got a pretty interesting period of history to be teaching here. I don't see much on the War of 1812, though. I don't mean that as a slight since I can't see the details, but difficulties the Federal government faced in waging that war with the balance of power between the Federal government and the states helped to diminish the power of the Jeffersonian view. In many ways, that war changed the character of the Federal government forever and probably made the Civil War inevitable.

  4. Thanks, "need to need" should be "need to know."

    As much I as I want every student to do a good job, even a poor job is better than nothing, from a grading standpoint. Practice also helps.

  5. The course objectives, alas, are provided by the department. They aren't perhaps as clear as they could be.

  6. Clayton, others have caught the typos I saw, so a general comment:

    This sounds like a great class, and I'm sorry I can't attend.

    Will your lecture notes be available on the web?

    Is the "compact" edition of the text useful? Do you know what it doesn't include?

    And thank you for replying to my earlier comment.

  7. Would it be possible for you to post the weekly question here on the blog, after your students have answered it, for discussion amongst us?

  8. Yes, I suppose that I can post the PowerPoints each week, and the weekly question.

  9. I'm looking forward to it; thank you.

  10. There is a glitch in the sentence

    "The average student... preparing for class,"

    Everything from "The average..." to "for class" is inside an anchor tag, except the second "s" in "class".