Teaching and Learning in the Humanities Now


We work to define the purpose and process of an education in a Humanities field, and to consider how to better use the tools available to us—including both scholarship and technology—in order to teach the students we have now, almost half of whom are first-generation college students. Rather than questioning the value of the Humanities, we seek to collectively define what we think an education in the Humanities should and can accomplish at the present time and how we can bring about the necessary change to implement this goals.

Over the past quarter century, a transformation has been occurring in higher education pedagogy. Until recently, preparation for teaching at the postsecondary level worked almost exclusively through a replication model, in which having been a student in a college or university classroom ostensibly prepared one for how to teach college students, while one’s research and disciplinary training determined what one would teach. Now, professional development centers grounded in research and scholarship on teaching and learning—such as UCSC’s Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning—have opened at a majority of colleges and universities around the country, with the aim of studying and also of changing the culture of teaching and preparation-for-teaching at the postsecondary level.


We ask:

  • What is the current rationale for studying the Humanities?
  • What “skills” do students learn in Humanities classes, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of thinking about a university education in terms of skills?
  • What exactly is meant by phrases like “learning-centered teaching” or “active learning” in Humanities disciplines?
  • How do we identify and then structure what we want our students to be learning, and how do we figure out whether they have learned it?
  • What kinds of assignments do we give our students, both in and out of class? How do we assess the results of those assignments?
  • What is the place of collaborative learning in a Humanities classroom?’
  • How can we help our students become skillful producers as well as critical consumers of digital content?
  • How can we better prepare our graduate students—including our TAs—to teach in 21st-century classrooms, when many of us teach using tools and methodologies that have changed little for the past century (or more)? What would a Professor-TA relationship look like under the New Pedagogy?
  • What are the workload implications of expecting faculty and graduate students to engage in professional development and “retraining,” and how will we recognize and reward that additional workload?



March 1, 2018 – Cathy Davidson: “The New Education”