Historical Study in the U.S.: Assessing the impact of Tuning within a professional disciplinary society

  • Daniel J. McInerney Utah State University
Keywords: Tuning, history, American Historical Association, AHA Tuning, disciplinary society, learning outcomes, assessment, US higher education, impact study


The U.S.-based American Historical Association (AHA), the largest – and most influential – professional organization for historians, was the first disciplinary society in the world to lead a Tuning project, launching its work in 2012. This essay analyzes a survey distributed to historians on campuses that have taken part in the AHA Tuning project. The purpose is to understand, after six years of work on the project, what practical difference Tuning has made for historians, students, courses, curricula, and departments. Survey data indicate that, under the disciplinary society’s guidance and encouragement, historians have created meaningful learning outcomes, implemented the objectives in courses and curricula, and begun work in the measurement of student learning. Not surprisingly, the project has faced limits and obstacles, particularly with leadership of the work, faculty buy-in, administrative support, follow-up assistance, enrollment concerns, student engagement, and outreach to stakeholders. However, after half a dozen years of activity, U.S. historians have made marked progress not only in articulating disciplinary learning outcomes (as have colleagues in other parts of the world) but also in implementing and assessing those objectives. While precise readings of “impact” remain elusive, a Tuning project under the direction of a disciplinary society has helped generate significant pedagogical, curricular, and cultural changes in the field of history..

Received: 03 April 2018
Accepted: 12 November 2018
Published online: 29 November 2018

Author Biography

Daniel J. McInerney, Utah State University
DANIEL J. MCINERNEY (daniel.mcinerney@usu.edu) holds the rank of Professor in the Department of History at Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA. He received his Ph.D. in American Studies-History from Purdue University (1984). His research centers on nineteenth-century U.S. history, focusing on social reform. He is the author of two books: The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition and Republican Thought (1994) and The Travellers’ History of the United States (2000; Russian and Chinese translations, 2009). McInerney has worked on the Tuning project with the State of Utah, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). In 2014, he addressed university audiences across Japan on the implementation of Tuning. In the same year, NILOA named him one of 11 “coaches” for the Degree Qualifications Profile/Tuning project. McInerney also holds positions on the advisory board of Liberal Education and as advisory editor of the Tuning Journal for Higher Education. His articles on Tuning have appeared in the Journal of American History, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, The History Teacher, World History Connected, the National Institute for Educational Policy Research Bulletin (Japan), and the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History.


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How to Cite
McInerney, Daniel J. 2018. “Historical Study in the U.S.: Assessing the Impact of Tuning Within a Professional Disciplinary Society”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 6 (1), 21-67. https://doi.org/10.18543/tjhe-6(1)-2018pp21-67.