Milestone Documents Hosts Case on Boosting Undergraduates' Critical Thinking Skills

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Emphasis on primary sources and rich discussion develops student intellect in Eric Cunningham’s classroom.

Professor Cunningham is teaching students to analyze and interpret historical documents, which we believe should be at the heart of history instruction. He’s teaching them to think for themselves, via a common-sense approach.

Milestone Documents is helping educators find new paths to developing the critical thinking skills of their students by showcasing history educator Eric Cunningham’s classroom strategy. A case study newly added to http://www.milestonedocuments.com details the Gonzaga University associate professor’s heavy emphasis on lecture, exploration of historic documents and classroom discussion that engages the attention and gray matter of his students.

“Developing critical thinking skills is a primary goal of education,” said Neil Schlager, publisher of Milestone Documents, an online classroom resource that includes more than 1,200 key historical documents and expert analysis from a global network of scholars. “Professor Cunningham is fostering that ability in his students by teaching them to analyze and interpret historical documents, which we believe should be at the heart of history instruction. He’s teaching them to think for themselves, via a common-sense approach that provides a truly engaging classroom experience.”

Case Study: Eric Cunningham Inspires Critical Thinking at Gonzaga University” describes Cunningham’s teaching philosophy – cultivate the human soul – and his goal to keep pure intellectual philosophy alive in higher education as faculty available to connect with and inspire students shrinks, and administrative staff grows. In Cunningham’s classroom, students earn a payoff in sheer intellectual exercise. He assigns two document readings per week along with questions for thought and expects students to come to every class prepared to discuss what they have read, what it means and its impact on history.

Cunningham’s choice of materials bolters his students’ ability to meet his expectations. He relies on Milestone Documents for its analyses that enrich classroom discussion and spur his students’ appreciation of these historic artifacts. He also adds a concise, no-frills textbook – Robert Strayer's "Ways of the World: A Brief Global History," published by Bedford/St. Martin's – and avoids the path of oversized, overwrought books that can’t be fully covered in a semester. His combination of lecture, strong emphasis on document readings and a framework provided by a survey textbook sets the stage for a meaningful classroom experience.

Also examined is Cunningham’s strategy for sidestepping publishing models that haven’t evolved with digital advances and the impact that has had on his approach to education. The case closes with Cunningham’s call to his colleagues to press for more responsive, modern approaches to educating today’s student.

Milestone Documents welcomes visitors to its website to read “Case Study: Eric Cunningham Inspires Critical Thinking at Gonzaga University” and other cases recounting paths to educational transformation.

About Milestone Documents
Milestone Documents is an online learning platform developed for use in history and social science courses. Pairing the most significant primary documents of all time with award-winning analysis by a global network of 300 historians and scholars, Milestone Documents has an expanding document collection of more than 1,200 primary sources. It is accessible via the Web, the iPad, and any smart phone.

Visit MilestoneDocuments.com/evaluation to learn more or launch a free trial.

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Beth Dempsey
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