Showcase Interview

Kate Thomas

Kate Thomas

Faculty Profile
Email Address

Teaching Strategy Video(s)
Streaming Videos: Intriguing Students to Learn
Allowing Students to Analyze What They Are Seeing
Benefits to Streaming Videos

Kate Thomas is the program director of the Women’s Studies minor; she also teaches the Introduction to Women’s Studies, US Women’s History (her favorite), Early US History, Modern US History, and World War II.

To help students “get it” in her Women’s History and Early US History, Kate assigns essays. For the first one, they cannot receive a grade until they come in and talk to her about it one-to-one. “We read the paper together,” she said, “and then I give them a grade. I feel they are more interested in classes after that, and more willing to discuss. I can spend this time because I have release time to direct Women’s Studies, and one of my classes is online.” This strategy is her favorite because the students begin to understand that she wants them to interpret, using primary sources to support their interpretation, rather than simply to report information.

Modern US History is her online class, and she uses Power Point lectures and photos. For example, when they talk about the period in history when many of their ancestors came here, the book discusses poverty. When Kate shows the photos of the squalid living conditions, they get it more viscerally and are willing to discuss it more fully on the discussion board. She also uses streaming online video to help students understand. One is “The War at Home” about the protests in Madison in the 1960’s, and “A Time for Justice,” about the civil rights movement. She noted, “I sometimes feel I can be more creative online.”

Students take Early US History, Kate thinks, because they couldn’t get into Modern US, so she has to motivate them. She asks, for example, if the American Revolution was “revolutionary.” The students discuss these questions in small groups, and she moves around the room and reports what the small groups are discussing to the larger group; students come to a fuller understanding, and learn to use primary sources to say why they decide something.

She tells them any time they are asked “either/or” questions they should say “yes” and look at both sides. When she asked them if the Civil war was about states’ rights or slavery, some said, “YES!” She felt she had succeeded.

Kate loves teaching and has a good time doing it. Sometimes she wishes there was a classroom designed for active learning with round tables and three projectors for discussion groups. The person who wins the teaching award could get to use it as a perk.