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A Primer for Teaching African History: Ten Design Principles.

Getz, Trevor R. A Primer for Teaching African History: Ten Design Principles. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

Trevor R. Getz's A Primer for Teaching African History is an insightful manual that presents a new approach to teaching African history and ultimately African studies and world history. The book, which is designed to enhance the learning experience for students at a time of burgeoning interest in these fields, is particularly significant because it reinforces the urgent need to and importance of studying Africa objectively and intellectually at all levels, from high school through undergraduate and graduate college programs.

The author affirms the relevance of established methods and designs for teaching African history while at the same time offering "possible points of departure for future work on content, course design, and pedagogy" (p. 1). Stopping short of calling for a cookie-cutter approach to the teaching of African history, Getz advocates a strategic course design and delivery method that is very mindful of the innovations inherent in "the collective wisdom of the profession" (p. 6). Such curricula must also take into account the many contemporary approaches and systems--a strategy that he metaphorically links to the Central African lukasa, a memory board, an image of which is used for the cover art and frontispiece of this book.

Part one, which has two chapters, advocates the use of carefully selected teaching methods, such as the use of memory boards, rather than the use of randomly selected lessons from a textbook to communicate factual knowledge. This structure has a student-centered approach that takes into account their knowledge, or lack thereof, about Africa in the design of multidimensional courses that cover moral, philosophical, intellectual, and material topics. In part two, Getz focuses on navigating the complexities of space, time, and identity. The spatial dimensions take into account the various geographical contexts, for example diasporic, global, regional, and continental, when designing narratives and themes. The time component addresses the potentially overwhelming issues of periodization of the long and winding history of humanity on the continent. For identity, he considers the complex dynamics of gender, ethnicity, and nationalism. Getz also contemplates the significance of race in relation to identity. The third part is devoted to discussions of the possibility of using African history courses to teach ethical scholarship and frameworks. These deliberations focus on methodology, sources, and investigations of "strategies for embedding skills and competencies into the course" (p. 5). Getz looks at digital tools and resources, including their usefulness and limitations. All of these are accompanied by suggestions for classroom activities and assessment techniques.

Reading this book, one gets the sense that, in principle, Getz is supportive of course designs that make available to students multiple source materials geared toward enabling them to see multiple viewpoints on debatable issues in African history, African studies, and world history. Unfortunately, one does not readily see this stance being extended to the advocacy of the use of novels as works of art in history classes. He does raise concerns in passing, but does not make a strong case for exposing students to critical sources such as Oyekan Owomoyela's "Telling Africa's Past in Literature: Whose Story Is It Anyway?" in which Owomoyela urges readers to think critically about so-called authentic work by African scholars.

Be that as it may, A Primer for Teaching African History is lucid, the chapters are not overly long, and is pleasantly easy to read. In all conceivable ways, this book, like the few that came before it, is of great epistemological and pedagogical relevance and is thus useful for both new and established teachers of African history, African studies, and world history because it exposes them to great ideas and strategies for enhancing teaching skills. It has the potential to become a required text for candidates with major concentrations in the fields of African history, world history, and African studies in graduate schools and for graduating history seniors as part of their training for teaching in lecture halls, classrooms, and distance learning programs.


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Title Annotation:AFRICA
Author:Nti, Kwaku
Publication:Journal of Global South Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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