Adopting The American Yawp for the U.S. History Survey

Purpose: to help other instructors teaching the same course

Common Course ID:  HIST 2010  - U.S. History 1877 to Present
CSU Instructor Open Textbook Adoption Portrait

Abstract: This open textbook is being utilized in a history course for undergraduate students by Michael Karp at CSU, San Bernardino’s Palm Desert Campus.  The open textbook provides a free online and collaboratively built narrative of American history for college-level courses. The main motivation to adopt an open textbook was to save students money and provide a quality and accessible textbook. The American Yawp was also an attractive text to adopt because it is written by historians and offered through Stanford University Press—but as an open resource—it is not motivated by profit or other business models. Most students access the open textbook online, either using a web browser or by downloading free pdf copies of each volume. For students who prefer a hard copy, they are available new for $25 from Stanford University Press.

About the Course

U.S. History 1877 to Present
Course HIST 2010

Brief Description of course highlights:  History 2010 is a general education survey course covering the second half of the U.S. history survey. The course meets the state code requirement in U.S. history. It also meets the state code requirement in the U.S. Constitution when taken in conjunction with HIST 2000.

Student population:  As an entry level U.S. history course—and as a GE course that meets multiple graduation and curriculum requirements—it regularly has students from majors across the campus. Previous preparation ranges from recent high school graduates to college seniors.

Learning or student outcomes:    

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of relevant historical facts and contexts
  • Students will demonstrate awareness of historical interpretive differences
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate and analyze primary historical sources
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to develop an historical interpretation based on evidence
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to identify key social, economic, cultural, and political themes in American history
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate their understanding of U.S. history in written form

Key challenges faced and how resolved: Syllabus and/or Sample assignment from the course or the adoption: There were very few issues adopting The American Yawp. As an open resource book written by many historians, some chapters had similar and somewhat repeated material. This was easily resolved by letting students know ahead of time or highlighting the different perspectives of subjects or topics covered more than once. Please note this occurred rarely and most of the narrative is very clear and specific to each chapter.

OER/Low Cost Adoption

OER/Low Cost Adoption Process

Please explain your motivation to use this textbook or OER/Low-cost adoption. I adopted The American Yawp primarily to save students money. I also liked the text itself and was impressed by the project. It is also terrific the text is available to all students at the outset of the semester since it is available online.

How did you find and select the open textbook for this course?  A colleague at a previous institution introduced me to it.

Sharing best practices:  If you have used one text for many years, faculty will likely need to make adjustments to assignments and lectures to match the contents of The American Yawp. 

About the Resource/Textbook 

Textbook or OER/Low cost Title:  The American Yawp

Brief Description: The American Yawp is an open-source textbook through Stanford University Press. As the editors of the text explain, “in an increasingly digital world in which pedagogical trends are de-emphasizing rote learning and professors are increasingly turning toward active-learning exercises, scholars are fleeing traditional textbooks. Yet for those that still yearn for the safe tether of a synthetic text, as either narrative backbone or occasional reference material, The American Yawp offers a free and online, collaboratively built, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses.” The American Yawp provides just what the editors promise, as it offers a clear and accessible narrative history. Additionally, chapters are written by specialists in their field who have integrated seminal and recent historical scholarship. As a result, it nicely incorporates a diversity of perspectives—and as the editors note—the text “integrates diverse voices, recovers narratives of resistance, and explores the complex process of cultural creation.” Unlike many other OERs for history classes, The American Yawp provides materials for instructors, including chapter quizzes, key terms, discussion questions, essay assignments, as well as sample syllabi and exams.

Authors:  The book is written by many historians, but the lead editors for The American Yawp are Joseph Locke and Ben Wright.

Student access:  

If students prefer hard copies, they can purchase them from Stanford University Press at

Supplemental resources:  Please use this link to access the supplemental resources for The American Yawp

  • Syllabi
  • Primary Source Readings for each chapter
  • Discussion Questions
  • Key Terms
  • Chapter Quizzes
  • Essay Assignments
  • Exams

Cost Savings:  American history textbooks typically range from $40-$100 dollars. Since The American Yawp is free, the savings are significant for students.

License: The American Yawp is an open resource. The project is formally operated under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC-BY-SA) License and is designed to meet the standards of a “Free Cultural Work.”

About the Instructor

Michael Karp 
California State University, San Bernardino

My teaching philosophy has been shaped by my experiences as an instructor at several colleges and secondary schools. Having taught middle school and high school students, I have come to embrace a teaching style that focuses on critical and historical thinking skills rather than rote memorization of content. Informed by leading scholars like Bob Bain and Sam Wineburg, my classes are characterized by mini-lectures and frequent examination of primary sources. While I use short lectures to introduce topics, establish context, and model historical thinking skills, the bulk of my classes are defined by active learning activities that challenge students to answer historical questions. Students examine primary and secondary sources as a class, in groups, and as individuals to work through the deeper contexts and complexities of the past. In doing so, students learn how to evaluate sources for reliability, how to critically read, and how to corroborate information. This approach allows students to recreate the past on their own and provides them with critical reading and writing skills that will serve them beyond the history classroom. I teach courses in U.S. history, the American West, Environmental history, and history education among others.