Structural Constraints

Rust is on a module schedule, which is similar to a quarter schedule. Classes meet daily for eight weeks, an arrangement which encourages continuity and intensity. At the same time, a challenge to achieving the goal of student receptiveness to involvement in resurrecting lost history was not only to provide them enough background material to inform a re-evaluation of the past but in essence to reorient them in time within what was linearly a contracted window. Roughly speaking, students involved in FTP had one week of intensive study of slavery and Civil War histories (with additional lectures, readings, and field trips to local, project-related sites interspersed), followed by several weeks' instruction in conducting primary historical research, genealogical research on the Internet, and oral interviews, as well as the course material for Composition and Research--writing and evaluating argument, research methodology, and, in accordance with the Department of English, MLA Citation. The students, twelve, were divided into three groups based on county focus; groups were created on the project site, and students were added as members of the site with editing privileges. Each student, assigned two slaveholders, would be graded individually, but it was my hope that group members would collaborate, encouraging and assisting each other.

Since some of the key goals for student involvement were qualitative and affective, I chose to use the I-Search Model. Its opening section--WHAT I ALREADY KNEW--would at once provide students opportunity for conscious reflection on their own knowledge, pre-research, while also generating first-person narratives that would allow me to see the students relative to the history we were studying. In much the same way, the step-by-step narration that is the I-Search Methodology section would allow me to see the research process that would lead to the last sections of the paper--MY GROWTH AS A RESEARCHER and the Conclusion. Throughout the eight-week experience, we met as a class for lectures; students met in groups and individually with me. I assisted them greatly with finding sources since none of them had conducted genealogical research before and few of them historical research. Field trips included time at local libraries, genealogical rooms, and special collections. The most resourceful students made phone calls to or emailed genealogists, familiarized themselves with Rootsweb and USGenweb genealogy sites, and consulted with members of the Marshall County Genealogical Society. Given the ground that had to be covered to properly orient and instruct the students, a disproportionately small amount of time was spent on familiarizing them with the Wikispaces platform. They were given a brief tutorial on publishing to the site. While students were expected to, as their final assignment, upload their biographies, I saw little buy-in from students concerning this final task. Since publication to the project site was only worth a small percentage of the overall grade, some students may have felt little need to complete the project in this way.