Philadelphia 2022 – A Weekend Colloquia

ByRay Tyler, 2016 MAHG graduate
On April 7, 2022

Professional Development with Teaching American History

Many US history and government teachers are familiar with Teaching American History’s professional development programs. We host a variety of teacher programs—from webinars to graduate courses. Each event uses a conversational approach led by a scholar with expertise in the topic or era. Participants read a packet of original documents on the subject curated by a scholar, who facilitates a series of ninety-minute conversations focused on the readings. Participants gather at tables arranged in a hollow square. This arrangement encourages a “conversation among peers.” The scholar/discussion leader is not “a sage on the stage” but an equal participant who has studied the colloquia topic in greater depth than most K-12 teachers. The conversations avoid pedagogy. Instead, the discussions are deep dives into the world the authors inhabited, the problems they confronted, choices they made, arguments they embraced—as expressed in their writings.

Multi-Day Colloquia

Perhaps, our most popular content PD is our Multi-Day Colloquia held near—or in some cases—on a historic site, which participants visit as part of the seminar. Teachers enjoy visiting historical sites or museums, connecting with like-minded teachers from across the country, and feeding their passion for learning about United States history and government. Our generous donors cover the costs of meals and accommodations for the participants and stipends that help cover some of the travel costs to the MD site. The scholar/discussion leaders teach full-time in colleges and universities across the country. They enjoy leading the colloquia because teachers bring more background knowledge to the conversation than they typically hear from undergrad students in their home institutions. 

The Multi-Day colloquia are spread over three days—typically a Friday through Sunday during the school year, but they may be weekdays in the summer. I have been fortunate to host events in Montpelier, where we toured James Madison’s home; Valley Forge, where we toured Washington’s encampment; and Santa Fe, NM, which included a visit to the Palace of the Governors, constructed circa 1610. Although Covid forced us to put the multi-day seminars on hold for two years, we have restarted them this spring and are keeping our fingers crossed that they will continue without interruption. 

Multi-day seminars
Museum of the American Revolution

When I host colloquia, I ask myself several questions to evaluate the event’s success. Did all the teachers participate? Did the scholar’s teaching style facilitate discussion and encourage deeper connections to the text? Did the teachers enjoy the trip to the museum or historical site? Most importantly, did I learn something significant about the topic I would use in my classroom? Using this checklist, a weekend colloquia I recently hosted in Philadelphia was a roaring success. Entitled Apples of Gold: The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States in Contextit was led by Dr. Lauren Hall of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Seventeen educators from multiple states stayed in the Old City, visited the Museum of the American Revolution, and debated the meaning of the Declaration and Constitution as initially written and how their students see those founding documents today. 

Lauren set the tone for our discussion in Session One. She told us, “I am not your primary interlocutor in this conversation. You are. When you share a comment or question—speak to the group, not me.” All the participants bought into Lauren’s suggestion. Numerous conversations about quotes lifted from the readings took place between the teacher participants. At the same time, Lauren listened to the discussions and interjected important context, interesting background about individuals we were discussing, and probing questions about the text that challenged us to think more critically. 

Although I am no longer in the classroom, I still feel the tug when attending weekend colloquia. I gain new insights into documents I taught, new ways to teach the meaning effectively, and I nurture my passion for US history and government. The feedback I receive from the participants tells me they feel the same way. 

We are in the process of finalizing sites for our Fall 2022 Weekend Colloquia schedule. Tentative sites stretch from Washington DC to the Reagan Library in California. Look for application information in your email to arrive in May. 

Next

Documents in Detail: Congress

Join your fellow teachers in exploring America’s history.