Mark Leier's approach to fostering student engagement and learning. Credit: Jackie Amsden.

History, Teaching & Learning

History's Mark Leier engages students with teaching portfolios and a simple question

April 25, 2018

By Jackie Amsden, Teaching and Learning Centre

Mark Leier (right) doesn’t want students to follow his curriculum; he wants them to lead it.

“As a historian, I'm less interested in people absorbing historical content and more interested in them drawing on it and applying their own experience to connect to the past so they can make sense of the present,” explains Leier, a professor in the Department of History.

To encourage meaning-making over memorization in his introductory and upper-year courses, he has begun replacing his final exams with learning portfolios. A learning portfolio is a collection of artifacts that expresses a student’s learning journey. However, in Leier’s class the portfolio is as much a process as a product.

Starting from day one, Leier delivers his curriculum in a way that allows students to engage creatively with the material, part of what he calls a “democratic approach” to teaching that puts students in the driver’s seat.