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History is a broad discipline that encompasses many different types of knowledge and many different ways of learning. Like many humanities disciplines, it deals with human creativity, individuality and the many ways that humans express themselves. Like many social sciences, it seeks to understand the larger forces that shape human experience at the level of the family, the nation, or even entire civilizations. Historians are defined above all by their interest in exploring the process of change over time and assessing how the experiences and events of the past influence how humans operate and interact today.
In order to develop a deeper sense of History as an academic discipline, students should familiarize themselves with the core learning goals that motivate the teaching of History. These learning goals animate the basic structure and formal requirements of individual courses and underpin the structure of the major and minor in History. In addition to the goals outlined here, individual courses may have more specific goals about the acquisition of factual information particular to the course. The goals outlined here are applicable to the entire range of departmental offerings and should be understood as working in conjunction with the goals specified for individual courses. The department’s broad goals can be divided into two categories: conceptual learning goals that delineate the principles of the discipline, and practical learning goals that define important skills that students can expect to develop by taking courses in History.
Conceptual Learning Goals. Students who study History at Rutgers University can expect to develop an understanding of the following concepts:
1.) How individuals are shaped by their own past and by the past of their society and institutions;
2.) The role of human agency in bringing about change in society and institutions;
3.) The operation of large-scale forces responsible for causing change over time, such as politics, economics, and religion;
4.) The role of diversity and difference in shaping human experience;
5.) The nature of cause-and-effect relationships in human affairs as they have played out over time and as they continue to operate in the present.
Practical Learning Goals. Students who study History at Rutgers University can expect to develop the following practical skills:
1.) The ability to read and understand a variety of literary forms, including primary sources such as diplomatic correspondence, journalistic reports, and private papers, as well as secondary sources written in academic prose;
2.) The ability to analyze information effectively and to construct cause-and-effect relationships from disparate data sources;
3.) The ability to evaluate evidence critically and to identify historical bias and hidden assumptions in a wide variety of sources;
4.) The ability to write persuasively and communicate effectively;
5.) The ability to work independently and to conduct independent research.
Accomplishing these goals requires hard work and perseverance. Students who make a serious commitment to the discipline should find, however, that in addition to acquiring valuable concepts and skills they will also develop an appreciation for History that will continue after their formal education has been completed.