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Instruction with Special Collections & University Archives

Resources on classroom instruction with SCUA


This guide is an overview of how faculty members can use Special Collections and University Archives materials in their teaching. It includes information on how SCUA approaches classroom instruction, sample lists of materials for class sessions, descriptions of collections that could be used for teaching in various subject areas, and information on our digitized collections.

Planning Classroom Sessions

Instructors in SCUA use backward design as a method to create instruction sessions. We start by discussing with faculty what we want the students to gain from the sessions and what the learning goals are. From that conversation, we build a set of learning outcomes that fit with the course objectives and introduce important concepts in primary source literacy. 

We draw from a variety of active learning techniques to create class sessions that engage students with primary sources in a hands-on way. We use small group discussion, written questions, and many other methods to encourage direct engagement with materials in the classroom. We strive to ensure the course learning goals and the classroom activities pair well with materials to give students a unique experience of practicing primary source research.

When planning the format of the lesson, one of our primary considerations is whether the primary focus of the session is the object or the content.

When the object is the primary focus, we center our lesson planning around the physical aspects of the materials. In these sessions, we will cover basic handling of special collections and archival materials and information on the production, use, and history of the objects selected. While we will spend some time discussing material content, we will focus our study on the material aspects of the items and delve into what we can learn from studying objects through that lens.

When content is the primary focus, SCUA instructors adapt our activities to spend more time reading, observing, and studying collections materials. While we will still cover care and handling of collections materials, these sessions leave more space for discussing the content of an item and connecting it to class themes. These sessions are useful for students who will be conducting their own primary source research to complete class assignments.

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