Press and Reviews

From the publisher

Teaching history well is not just a matter of knowing history; it is a set of skills that can be developed and honed through practice. In this theoretically informed but eminently practical volume, Mary Jo Festle examines the recent explosion of research on the teaching and learning of history. Illuminated by her own work, Festle applies the concept of “backward design” as an organizing framework to the history classroom. She provides concrete strategies for setting up an environment that is inclusive and welcoming but still challenging and engaging.

Instructors will improve their own conceptual understandings of teaching and learning issues, as well as receive guidance on designing courses and implementing pedagogies consistent with what research tells us about how students learn. The book offers practical illustrations of assignments, goals, questions, grading rubrics, unit plans, and formats for peer observation that are adaptable for courses on any subject and of any size. Transforming History is a critical guide for higher and secondary education faculty―neophytes and longtime professionals alike―working to improve student learning.


As director of a teaching and learning center, each year I would give incoming faculty a book on teaching that they would find not only immediately useful, but one to which they could return time and again. Mary Jo Festle’s excellent contribution certainly hits that mark.

  • Steven Volk, Professor of History Emeritus, Oberlin College, and Co-Director, Great Lakes Colleges Association Consortium for Teaching and Learning

Festle’s command of the scholarship of teaching and learning in history is impressive, as is her integration of theory and practice. This book should be on the shelves of any well-stocked collection in a university teaching and learning center.

  • Joel Sipress, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Superior

I found it remarkably useful.  [The] book would have been especially helpful when I was managing twelve TA’s as I taught the second half of the US survey to hundreds of students.  [The] advice on grading and discussion would have saved many young professors a great deal of misapplied energy.

  • Ed Ayers, Executive Director of New American History, former president of the Organization of American Historians, and National Professor of the Year

[T]his reviewer would recommend this book to anyone who teaches any subject at the secondary, post-secondary, or even graduate level. Why? Transforming History seamlessly melds the science of learning with discipline-specific content in an engaging and intelligent way. Each chapter provides practical, concrete, and evidence-based ideas for organizing some important components of instruction, including syllabi, lectures, discussions, assignments, evaluations, relationships with students, and mentorships with other professionals. Most important, these suggestions can be adapted to the online environment….

Rarely in life does this reviewer find a resource so well-composed that it seems to have the power to reawaken intellectual life if it is widely used. Festle (Elon Univ.) expertly and accessibly offers readers a survey and tool book with the potential to do just that, intended for new instructors as well as those who aspire to continuous improvement.

  • R. F. Subotnik, American Psychological Association, in Choice Reviews (February 2021)