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                            School opening postpones but learning continues -- World history can be so much fun
                            Author:  Date:2020-06-01  Clicks:

                            Requiring students to design a poster of the “The Plague and Humans in the History of World Civilization” lecture series, within two hours, was a unique and entertaining way to test students. This was a scene from the exam of Wuhan University’s “History of World Civilization” course in Wuhan University.

                            History of World Civilization, which has enjoyed a widespread reputation of impressiveness, is jointly taught by Prof. Pan Yingchun and associate researcher Bai Chunxiao of WHU’s School of History. Together with associate professor Zhang Shiwei, they have also introduced some specialized courses like Global History and History of the World. As conventional as the course names may sound, these teachers made them modern and popular.

                            Different and imaginative

                            Under the leadership of the course leader Pan Yingchun, the teachers carefully designed and organized the course syllabus from ordinary discussion subjects all the way to the type of final examinations, to relate them more closely to the course content and to add flexibility in format so that the students can use their imagination freely to master and internalize what they have learned in class.

                            The teachers carefully considered various effective assessment designs that assess student’s knowledge rather than mechanical memorization.

                            This final exam covered the four major plagues in human history, all of which tested the wisdom of humankind-- the plague of Athens in Ancient Greece, the Justinian Plague of the Byzantine Empire, the Black Death in middle ages and the recent London Plague. For their exam, students were asked to design a poster for an upcoming lecture series on “The Plague and Humans in the History of World Civilization” while expected to take history as a mirror and learn from it.

                            An open-book test question of this course in 2018 also remained fresh in students’ memory. “If you had a time machine so that you could travel through the ‘time tunnel’ back to a stage of world civilization and live through the history of mankind at that time, what would your fate be like? We have set four historical periods for you. Please choose two of them to unlock your journey through civilization”.

                            The courseware of History of World Civilization”

                            Small in scale, rich in interaction

                            The world history teaching team attaches great importance to the interaction with students, combining teaching and discussion to stimulate their initiative in learning and thinking. Since 2017, the team has adopted a hybrid format of large lectures combined with small discussion groups to offer both classroom teaching conducted by a teacher, and small student-led class discussion sessions. The students are all divided into several small groups, according to the principle of balanced major distribution of arts and sciences. Graduate students of world history majors with excellent performance and strong communication skills are recruited as teaching assistants. The teaching assistants have sufficient autonomy to flexibly arrange grouping, class hours, materials and presentation forms, etc.

                            The topics selected by teachers for the small group discussions are course-relevant and highly innovative. Students can choose to discuss whatever topic interests them. For example, “History of the World” focused on the subject of important historical moments across the globe, leading to a heated debate on events like the Great Depression, La Marseillaise, the Storming of the Bastille, Alexander’s Expedition, the Boston Tea Party, and the October Revolution.

                            In “Global History”, students discussed the “history of food and utensils” and chose items such as tomatoes, spices, ice cream, potatoes, peppers and corn as themes. This encouraged the students to have a deeper understanding of knowledge in related fields.

                            Teachers believe that this flexible and free classroom arrangement not only stimulates students’ interest in learning, but also encourages them to think independently and speak boldly, which effectively enriches their historical knowledge, and strengthens communication and cooperation at the same time.

                            Online learning platforms are also utilized to let students sign in, ask questions, and engage in discussions. These tools can greatly enhance the students’ enthusiasm and motivate them to participate more actively in the class.

                            Recently, this combined model of “large-scale teaching, small-scale discussion” has been widely promoted throughout WHU, and has received unanimous high praise from students.

                            Small-scale discussion session

                            To feel and to learn

                            Visiting “The kingdom of pharaohs - ancient Egyptian antiquities exhibition”, “The eagle of France - exhibition of napoleon artefacts”, Mediterranean civilization and other exhibitions at Hubei Provincial Museum and learning the stories behind these exquisite exhibits; going to Panlongcheng Archaeological National Heritage Park to enjoy a special exhibition of unearthed cultural relics about “Pompeii: moment and eternity” in retrospection of ancient Roman Civilization, comprehending the history of Pompeii and its excavation process in detail… One of the highlights in the lecture series on World History is that students can actually go off campus and engage in unforgettable real field experience.

                            Prof. Pan Yingchun said that these visits allowed students to more intuitively perceive the original features of historical culture and experience the customs and living conditions of people at that time. Students said that in this way, they have a more visual and three-dimensional experience of history.

                            Teachers and students in front of Panlongcheng Archaeological National Heritage Park

                            Teachers also shared their overseas experiences relevant to the class content. After visiting the “Pharaoh’s Kingdom” exchange exhibition, Prof. Pan bought two copies of Egyptian papyrus to the class. She called everyone’s attention to the texture of papyrus and encouraged them to touch and feel it. One student said excitedly after touching  an ancient object for the the first time, “It was quite impressive.”

                            Besides, Bai Chunxiao shared with the class the photos of ancient Greek ruins and museum artifacts he personally took; Teacher Zhang Shiwei shared his insights from visiting the Roosevelt Presidential Library and MacArthur’s House in the United States; Prof. Pan showed the cultural relics’ photos she took at the British Museum. These stories and photos which bear the customs and histories allowed students to appreciate the world without even leaving Luojia Mountain.

                            With the creative ideas and endeavors of Pan Yingchun and other teachers, these impressive methods of innovative classroom teaching and assessment make students realize that learning world history can be so much fun.

                            Rewritten by Liu Xiaojing,

                            Edited by Wei Yena, Wei Junyi, Zheng Yayun, Sylvia & Hu Sijia

                            Source: https://news.whu.edu.cn/info/1002/60346.htm


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