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Between October and December 2019, investigators participating in an Ithaka S+R study interviewed fifteen Yale instructors who teach with primary sources in humanities and humanities-leaning social science disciplines. The conversations focused on the interviewees’ background, training, and experience utilizing primary sources in their undergraduate teaching at Yale, as well as their pedagogical goals, strategies, successes and challenges, and perceived needs as practitioners of primary source-based instruction.

Interviewees were eloquent in articulating the wide variety of pedagogical goals that motivate their work to incorporate primary sources in all formats into their syllabi and teaching practice. Very few cited any formal training or mentoring in teaching with primary sources, and most portrayed it as a solitary endeavor within their department or discipline. The instructors interviewed for this report expressed challenges relating to finding primary sources at Yale and facilitating that discovery for their students. One commonality expressed across the interviewees’ range of Yale-specific teaching experiences is their reliance on and appreciation for the collaborative support that they receive from staff in the repositories with which they most frequently work. Interviewees discussed the use of technology in teaching, but primarily in terms of presentations, either their own course content or students’ research results. The interviews took place a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Yale to move 2020 classes online. As a result, this report does not reflect instructors’ experiences relying heavily on technology to deliver their classes.

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