Approaches to teaching history

What Does It Mean to Make Inferences?

"“Wie es eigentlich gewesen,” declared Leopold von Ranke. Despite many successive and successful intellectual assaults on the axioms of this methodology, it remains the guiding principle and aspiration of historians today. The main goal of the historian’s craft is still to report things as they are (Anthony, 1994). However, historians are not time travelers, and the only way to pierce the murky veil of time is through the imperfect crystal ball spun from a patchwork of sources. Consequently, the use of sources and historical evidence to dutifully reconstruct what likely happened in the past is the bread and butter of the historian’s craft. From Herodotus and Thucydides, to the historians of today, the use of a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer one’s inquiry question about the past stands to be the only constant in the methodology of a historian (Carr, 1961)."

Using Weighted Hinge Questions (WHQs) to Assess Students’ Causal Understanding

"Assessment in Singapore’s history classrooms has long reflected our teachers’ enduring focus on preparing students to meet examination requirements. The most common assessment practices revolve around assessing students’ proficiency in handling source-based case study questions and in using writing frames to answer essay questions asked in national examinations. Furthermore, many of these assessment tasks are typically assigned at the end of each topic or theme in the syllabus. There are, however, significant drawbacks to this assessment approach. First, this approach frequently offers delayed quantitative and qualitative descriptions of learner performance, thus preventing teachers from tracking their students’ learning during the instructional process and adjusting their pedagogical strategies accordingly to address students’ learning needs. "

Assessment for Learning in History: Maximizing Error Analysis to bridge students’ learning gaps in answering Source-Based Case Study Questions

"Source-Based Case Study (SBCS) is a compulsory part of the formal history assessment in the Singapore context. It falls under Assessment Objective 3 which requires students to “interpret and evaluate source material” (MOE, 2013). Since this is an important component in the current assessment, history teachers spend a significant amount of time helping students to master the skills associated with this aspect. In addition, they would mark SBCS assignments and some would give feedback to help students know where they stand and how they can improve. Teachers would normally include comments and some of them may write a copious amount of feedback. While teachers have the good intention of writing feedback to help students improve their performance, anecdotal evidence suggest that students skim over the feedback and concentrate mainly on the marks and grades awarded. This action, on the part of the students, negates the impact of Formative Assessment (FA) “as one that is specifically meant to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning” (Sadler, 1998). "

Towards an Effective Professional Development Model to Deepen History Teachers’ Understanding of Historical Concepts

"This small-scale study explores professional development (PD) designs for history teachers in Singapore and proposes a PD model that uses a job-embedded collaborative approach. Drawing from research on effective PD and data gathered from questionnaires and interviews conducted with participants involved in a PD workshop, this paper considers the value of collaborative PD approaches aimed at promoting and encouraging historical thinking. The authors conclude that PD history workshops that are carefully designed to support the development of teachers’ professional knowledge bases, and ones that offer opportunities for teachers to actively translate conceptual ideas into concrete teaching strategies, are critical in transforming beliefs and practices that can work towards more robust historical thinking and discourse in the classroom. "

Developing Historical and Metahistorical Thinking in History Classrooms: Some Reflections on Research and Practice

"The history of history education, past and present, often resembles a history of contestation, in which rival and polarized understandings of the meanings of ‘history’ and ‘history education’ vie for dominance (Nakou and Barca, 2010). A common polarity in debates on history curricula is the opposition between ‘knowledge’ and ‘skill’, an opposition that has had considerable currency in recent curriculum reform processes in England which have emphasised ‘core knowledge’ (DfE, 2013)."

Anxieties Over Singapore Students’ Conceptions About History and The Past

"Understanding history can be an intellectually challenging task for many students in schools. It requires students to contemplate issues, events and people who had lived in the distant past and who are often far removed (from them) in time and familiarity. Such challenges, however, have seldom been satisfactorily addressed in many history classrooms in Singapore. "

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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