To teach history really well


Recently I have had quite a few meetings with professors in history & culture for MOOC course designs. Accustomed to sitting in the classroom learning, I came to realise how hard it is to be on the other side – stand in the classroom teaching.

It is hard as teaching history & culture is more than just conducting the description. A description of what past was and what present is, for my point of view, only scratches the surface of history. And that is hardly enough.

cats-in-costumeIf some one is to teach, for example, a topic about QiPao (a classic Chinese dress for female), I believe it is important to explore beyond what the dress looks like. We need to ask questions such as – Why QiPao came out? What female was wearing before it was invented? When was it worn, among which income class, in which occasion? What role it played? What it represented? Who bought it? How much it cost compared to the average dispensable income? Who made, distribute them? Did it ever become a major industry? How did it respond when modern clothes emerged? Why is it still popular while the male version of Chinese classic dress – Chang Shang is not.

cat doing researchI dared not to overwhelm instructors with all these questions. To answer them well, one needs extensive research. No wonder almost all of the university instructors have Phd degrees. I just have admiration for tenacious people who went through such a long process of researching on one particular topic.

The second challenge is lack of materials I guess. Where do instructors decide and find reliable information sources which provide lead to answer these questions? Picture of QiPao? Fashion magazines? Newspapers? Novels?

What a delight to be part of a process to under the pass from the present.