Learning Goals

The Study of History Defined

Expectations for student learning in the Luther College history department derive from our understanding of the discipline of history as defined by the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization for historians in the United States:

History is an encompassing discipline. Its essence is in the connectedness of historical events and human experiences. By examining the causes, contexts, and chronologies of events, one gains an understanding of the nature of continuity and change in human experiences. Contemporary issues, ideas, and relationships take on new meaning when they are explored from historical perspectives.

Thus as historians, we can investigate any element of the past we choose, but we are guided in our study by a set of questions that are applicable across time and place: why and how does change occur over time? How do the local, national, and global contexts affect particular groups of people and influence events? What causes specific events to occur (and when does something that happens prior to such an event have no causal link to it)? 

Learning Goals


  • Students in our courses will acquire a breadth (geographical and chronological) and depth of knowledge of particular landmarks of human history and an understanding of their significance;
  • Students will be trained to recognize and appreciated the diversity of people and societies, both historically and cross-culturally;
  • Students will learn to use historical methodology, the means by which historians execute their research, with competence and creativity;
  • Students will be taught to explore the intersection of the discipline of History with other academic disciplines.


Along with the content of the courses, the study of history at Luther College teaches students the following skills – skills relevant to many occupations and careers

  • to develop the ability to conduct sustained historical research;
  • to analyze a variety of sources critically and synthesize information;
  • to identify the limitations of findings and develop questions for further inquiry;
  • to construct arguments and critique the arguments of others;
  • to write with fluency, clarity, and coherence;
  • to read, comprehend, and appreciate various types of texts, literature, and material culture;
  • to speak confidently and coherently in both formal and informal settings;
  • to listen with objectivity and empathy to our sources;
  • to work productively in a collaborative environment.


In the study of history, students encounter many scenarios and situations in which individuals and groups made decisions that significantly impacted the lives of others. As part of the development of the whole person, we consider such decisions in a way that

  • encourages students to reflect upon diverse human values with a full appreciation of the context and traditions that shape them.

Learning Goals as applied to Department Courses

Although the history department anticipates that all of its courses will include each of these learning goals, we fully recognize that certain courses will emphasize some over others. As a general rule of thumb,

  • 100 and 200 level courses will be geared toward the study of history for students early in the program and for General Studies credit and will be accessible to all students regardless of year or major.
  • 100 level courses will introduce the progression of events of the past over a long period of time, simultaneously introducing the vocabulary of historians and how to approach and read primary sources. Work on concepts of causation will be integral to writing in such courses. Reading will include general surveys of the subject matter and supplemental materials such as document or article anthologies.
  • 200 level courses will be more narrowly focused in time or place, and they will be based primarily on historical monographs with increased use of primary sources. Writing will focus on critical analysis of secondary and/or primary sources.
  • 300 level courses will entail the guided study of subject matter that is focused in time, place, and/or topic. It will include significant work with primary sources and the reading and critical analysis of historical monographs. Writing will normally include a research paper or similar product based on both primary and secondary sources.
  • 400 level courses will focus on independent research which synthesizes ideas based on primary sources, makes judgments about sources and historical interpretations, and produces original research that is presented to classmates for review in an oral and/or written form.