Class Participation

The success of this course depends upon active student participation. A portion of the grade will therefore be based on participation and listening, preparation, collaboration, in-class assignments, and overall contribution to class discussions. Naturally, in order to participate, students must come to class and recitation on time and ready to discuss the readings, videos and other materials.

While there will be some discussion during the regular class period as well as the opportunity to ask questions, most discussions will take place during the recitation sections. During the workshops, we will consider your level of engagement. When we hold discussions during recitation, we will assess your contributions from what kinds of questions do you ask to the thoughtfulness of your comments. This can be challenging for some students but it is important. History is a story we create in community and share broadly.

Reading / Video Reflection Papers

Beginning with the Week 2 readings, students will be required to submit a total of 8 brief reflection papers before each class meeting for 8 of the 12 weeks that include readings. Students can opt out of submitting a reflection for 4 sessions of their choice during the semester to balance their workload with other classes. Students should notify the instructor when they intend to opt out.

Reflections should focus on questions and observations from the readings and videos, and tie together readings and topics from different sessions as the class moves forward. They are not intended to be book reports, but are rather your own impressions of the reading and how you feel the readings are connected with the larger themes of the class. Each reflection should be 1–2 pages in length. At the top of each reflection paper, please include a single question, idea or topic that captures something of your thinking for your paper, as well as something you would like to learn more about.

Reflection paper evaluations are based on:

  1. Have you done the assignment? Have you read the required readings (and watched the required videos) as well as some of the supplemental readings? Have you included a discussion question? Do you get the "main idea" of the assignment?
  2. Is your essay interesting? Do you have something important or useful to say? Do you "connect the dots" between the readings (and videos) for the week with those from previous weeks?
  3. Do you ask good questions? Do you make good observations? This is totally subjective but some questions are trivial (eg: What year was MIT founded?) and can be answered by a Google search. I look for questions and observations that make me think.
  4. Do you show a steady maturation in your thinking from week-to-week? Do your essays get better?

Archives and Museum Workshops

This class introduces students to both the Institute Archives and Special Collections and the MIT Museum. Special interactive workshops have been developed to help students learn how to access primary source material as well as see some of MIT's most special treasures firsthand. The worksheets below were developed for use in conjunction with exercises led by the archivists and curators and may not be as useful absent the instructor's introductions.

Worksheet (PDF)

Using Artifacts as Evidence (PDF)

Project Assignments

Document Report

This may be a unique writing exercise for you. On the surface, it is very simple: Pick a single document from the Institute Archives that relates to some aspect of MIT history from 1861 to 1906 that interests you. About two pages of this report will be formulaic, meaning you will be asked to answer a set of questions about your chosen document or artifact. You will need to generate another page of sources—books, articles, websites, videos—that relate to your document or artifact. Finally, you will write a one-page essay that tells an important story about MIT through the lens of your document or artifact.

Artifact / Plan Report

Like the document report, you will be asked to identify a single artifact or architectural plan from the MIT Museum collection. These materials will relate to the period 1906 to 1920. Like the document report, you will have a series of questions to answer, a list of sources and a one-page essay.

Final Project

The capstone assignment for the class is a comparative exercise. You may pick any aspect of MIT history that interests you. Your final project will be a "then and now" comparison. For example, how was physics taught in 1916 compared with today? If you decide to write a research paper, we will explain the requirements but it will be approximately 5–7 pages in length. If your project is something different, you will still be required to submit a project report with appropriate documentation (e.g.: Photographs).