Expectations & Outcomes

Historians at Western promote understanding of the formative issues of our time and of the past by equipping students with critical analytic ability and broad historical understanding.

Historical study offers the opportunity to move beyond the limits of one's own time and place, to engage with and analyze events, institutions, and cultures often radically different from our own. It enables students to observe patterns in the past that are larger than one individual life, or even several lives. The study of history expands the imagination, introducing students to questions and experiences they had not previously encountered. It also gives a sense of the ways in which the forms modern societies take and the challenges they face are linked to the past, are produced by past experiences and choices.

The Department of History believes its curriculum will permit students to answer their own questions about how the world in which they live came into being and functions; promote the creation of an informed citizenry, one capable of understanding and analyzing critically a large range of issues; and develop students’ ability to express themselves clearly and succinctly.

Recommended expectations and outcomes for first year classes

  • Content delivery
    • Introduction to fundamental structures and transformations leading to the modern world.
  • Familiarity with the library and electronic resources
  • Full understanding of plagiarism and its problems
  • Basic primary source skills
    • What are primary sources?
    • Authorship and audience
    • Veritas et Utilitas: Truth and Usefulness
  • Basic secondary source skills
    • What are secondary sources?
    • Secondary sources as interpretation
    • Dealing with different interpretations
    • Synthesis of extensive reading
  • Basic paper-writing skills
    • Organization
    • Footnoting
  • Participation and communication skills
    • Small group discussion

These aims might be best achieved with short, focused frequent assignments.

Recommended expectations and outcomes for 2100 level classes:

  • Content delivery
    • broad themes, with an emphasis on their relevance to current issues
    • Full understanding of plagiarism and its problems
  • Basic secondary source skills
    • What are secondary sources?
    • Secondary sources as interpretation
    • Dealing with different interpretations
  • Basic exam-writing skills
    • Ability to place people, events and ideas in context
    • Ability to synthesize lecture and reading material coherently and concisely.

Recommended expectations and outcomes for second year classes

  • Content delivery
    • The examination of nations, regions and historical themes
  • Content diversification: the opportunity to experience
    • new fields
    • new approaches
  • Intermediate primary source skills
    • Close reading
    • What do they tell us beyond the obvious?
  • Intermediate secondary source skills
    • Identifying thesis and argument
    • Identifying sources
    • Critiquing [article-length texts]
  • Basic research skills
    • Integration of primary and secondary sources
    • Framing research questions
  • Intermediate writing skills
    • The thesis statement
    • Developing an argument
  • Participation and communication skills
    • Effective argument and exchange

These aims might be achieved by a combination of short assignments and a final “research paper” of c. 8-10 pages.

Recommended expectations and outcomes for third year classes

  • Content delivery
    • intensified detailed and conceptual knowledge of more specialized subjects
  • Primary source skills
    • analysing rhetoric
    • understanding the structure and presentation of a document
    • situating the source in relationship to other primary sources
  • Secondary source skills
    • understanding and questioning author’s evidence, thesis and argument
    • situating, analyzing and assessing historical works in their historiographical contexts and traditions
    • exposure to a variety of theoretical approaches to historical analysis
  • Research skills
    • generating own research questions for written assignments
    • developing skills of detection and inquiry
    • combining a variety of sources (e.g., primary sources, secondary sources, oral history, works from different disciplines) in written and oral assignments
  • Writing skills
    • writing effectively in longer assignments
    • integrating a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials into written work
  • Participation and communication skills
    • student-led presentations and class discussions
    • self-directed learning
  • Overall
    • reinforcing and refining skills developed in first and second year courses
    • devising individual explanations and interpretations
    • thinking laterally across disciplines, subjects, time, themes, regions and nations

Recommended expectations and outcomes for fourth year classes

  • Content delivery
    • The expectation is that students will add to their own knowledge base through active directed reading in highly focused courses.
  • Primary source skills
    • Extensive and sophisticated engagement with primary sources is expected, possibly at an archival level.
  • Secondary source skills
    • Students are expected to be familiar with the historiography of the field and to engage it directly in their own research and writing.
  • Research skills
    • Students are expected to develop their own research questions in consultation with faculty and pursue them through all available and appropriate primary and secondary sources.
  • Writing skills
    • The development of a complex and sustained historical argument, properly supported with evidence from primary and secondary sources.
    • The presentation of that argument in clear, correct and compelling prose.
    • The proper documentation of the research process through footnotes and bibliography.
  • Participation and communication skills
    • Engagement with peers in discussion of both source material and the process of writing history.
    • The clear and effective presentation of the student’s own research.
    • Positive and effective discussion of other students’ research.
  • Overall
    • Drawing on the skills and insights of years one through three to produce historical work which is original to the student.

Back to Top