Course: HIS 293
Instructor: Dr. Kern
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumScience in a Global Context is a course that focuses on the History of Science as of the 15th century. The course focuses on East Asia but ultimately takes on a Eurocentric focus. Although the primary goal of the class is gaining an understanding the interplay between cultures and people when it comes to science Dr. Kern also emphasizes a few other vital concepts she wants students to grasp that are not mentioned up front:
- Finding broad and narrow themes in and across the weekly readings
- Conceptualizing history as a global phenomenon and the implications of this
- Think about how different lenses of focus change the discourse of material
Learning From Classroom InstructionThe class, split in two 80 minute seminars per week, had two parts respectively:
- Lecture style seminar (1st one of the week): Dr. Kern is a very good lecturer and in a small seminar setting it is easy to ask questions. She does an excellent job of preparing the students for the readings and complimenting it with information not in the readings. To do well in this section it is important to take notes. Dr. Kern's slides are usually very encompassing and note taking is relatively easy if you can write and listen simultaneously. Key piece of advise is to ask questions. This is very generic but understanding and doing well in the 2nd part of the class, on which 20% of the grade is reliant, is dependent on understanding the material presented in the readings and lectures.
- Discussion style seminar (2nd one of the week): This seminar is when the readings are due and when students discuss the material of that week. Dr. Kern expects everyone to talk and will direct questions to you if you don't say anything. If you don't have a strong opinion of something try and say something at the start of the reading. This is easily doable by reading the primary reading (one provided each week) and skimming the supporting materials. Names are not important, unless they are the main theme, focus on the influence of major events for these readings: effects of colonization of the Dutch in Japan on medicine, the Chinese scientific progress due to the invasion of the Japanese, and so on. If you are able to summarize the readings like that Dr. Kern will appreciate your insights throughout the course.
Learning For and From Assignments
- Readings: See above for how to approach the readings. Often, certainly at the start of the semester, Dr. Kern will often give readings which are similar and say the same thing. If stressed for time some of these can be skipped. Later in the semester she also assigned a book called: The Three Body Problem. This book is enjoyable to read so it might be worth reading during the Spring Break as the workload during the final 6 weeks of Spring Break can be intense for all classes, including this one.
- Short Response Paper: Early in the semester students can choose what week they want to write a short response paper on. When choosing this it is important to keep in mind that Dr. Kern expects an argumentative essay so choose a week where:
- You can do at least a close reading of the primary source and 2 or 3 of the other readings
- You can link external sources (as this is a global history Dr. Kern likes it when you tie material to other things, as long as your argument remains close to the readings and your argument)
- You are interested in the topic and have some minimal background knowledge in it
- Midterm: You are assigned a book and are expected to link some of the readings from the past half semester to the book. Just like the short readings it should be an argumentative essay where you find a theme and make a hypothesis around it. The books that you can choose from are quite lengthy. Having some background on the topic is useful as it allows you to pick and choose chapters. Set aside a significant amount of time if you postpone this till the actual midterm week (not advised).
- Final: This is a 3-day take home. It is here where the previously mentioned diligent note-taking comes in handy. By having a summary and significant quotes of readings written down with the page number it makes answering the prompts very easy. Dr. Kern gives multiple prompts and you are expected to choose 3 and write 1500 word essays for each. One of those is a creative prompt relating to The Three Body Problem. Dr. Kern likes it and seemed to be more lenient when grading the creative prompt with a more generous grade.
External ResourcesDr. Kern has office hours every week and is very approachable when one needs help. Other than that there are not a lot of other resources. The most valuable are McGraw for learning to skim read keeping the above mentioned points of interest in mind, and the Writing Center (Make an appointment early).
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
- Knowledge of major historical events, such as the world wars, colonialism,... are assumed by Dr. Kern. Readings are provided to give a basic understanding of the history of the studied periods.
- Readings are a lot but not overdone
- This course presents a great opportunity to get used to a significant amounts of reading in a kind environment created by Dr. Kern and it also lets students learn how to make conclusions. Its a great seminar to take if a decent workload isn't a concern.
Science in a Global Perspective