Alex Dracobly

History | 541-346-5910

Courses: Astr 121, Astr 123, Phys 391

In my classes you will:

  • Practice foundational, transferable skills.
  • Explore new perspectives.

I was invited into the Teaching Academy because:

  • I am a Williams Fellow.
  • I participated in the Working Group for Active Teaching and Learning.

In what ways are you working to make your teaching inclusive?

Most students come to the history of war with an intuitive sense that it matters. The central idea behind my courses is to get students to think about the history of war from an analytical perspective: how we can explain major changes in the conduct and nature of war and how we might understand the determinants of victory and defeat in war.

As a Williams Fellow, I have also been collaborating with colleagues to develop a new foundational gateway course in history, History 290: Historian’s Craft. The course will enroll 20-30 students per section to create the experience of direct interaction with a faculty member and cohort building among majors earlier in the student's history career. The implementation of History 290 will help establish student cohorts that can be solidified through co-curricular activities and future coursework.

What do you do in terms of professional engagement with the teaching and learning culture on campus or nationally?

I've been attending workshops for years - the first one at least fifteen years ago - and continue to do so. I participated in the first cohort of the Working Group for Active Teaching and Learning. I have also been moving in the direction of presenting papers on historical pedagogy at professional conferences and finding like-minded people who want to draw attention to these issues.

In what ways was your teaching in this course research-led—informed by research on how students learn and inflected by UO's research mission?

I like to develop assignments that place students in a position to do research within the framework of a given class. For instance, the major paper in American Military History asks students to use the papers of George Washington to address a military issue facing the United States during the Revolutionary War. That gives students practice in the use of large bodies of primary source materials but in a defined way that is doable within the framework of a large survey class.

Who or what made you want to be a teacher?

I decided to go into teaching because I loved my college experience. I attended a small liberal arts college in Iowa (Grinnell College), where I never had a class with more than twenty-five students, and professors whose job was first and foremost teaching. One of the things I try to do is bring some of the educational ethos of a small college environment into the large-class settings of a research university. After nearly twenty-five years at it, I find that it is still a work-in-progress. If I can ever get my big classes to work as effectively as my best small classes (the Iraq War, in particular), I'll know I've succeeded. Until then, I'll keep on trying new things.