Teaching for Historical Understanding (TfHU): Developing a Discipline-based Curriculum Model at Tanjong Katong Secondary School, pp. 15 of 17

  1. Devising cognitive activities and developing lesson materials that challenge student thinking are crucial.  

The tasks that teachers design for classroom activities should vary in terms of the intellectual work involved, are challenging and interesting, and be "fit for purpose" (depending on the targeted understanding goals). The teachers found that students are often engaged in hands-on activities if these are well-crafted, offer them with a cognitive challenge (Nani) and help them understand the idea/issue better. Nonetheless, the teachers are also aware that instructions when running these activities must be effectively given (Nani, Liz & Feena). In addition, teachers would need to be clear about the goals of the activity (such as card-based sorting activities) and the instructional sequence that accompany such activities: for e.g., whether they are used to (a) consolidate students' understandings; (b) make sense of information; or (c) derive headings or categories for a list of 'reasons'/'causes'.

  1. Providing space for collaborative work and active thinking enhances the quality of learning.

The teachers found that giving opportunities for students to discuss and work in groups, and to subsequently present their arguments to their peers improved students’ learning experiences as they were able to share their thoughts and voice out their opinions on specific issues (Liz). In addition, all three teachers found that students tended to respond more actively to questions when they were in their smaller groups. Group-based activity usually succeeded in igniting students’ interest (Feena), and students demonstrated clear and well-grounded thinking when presenting their findings or when responding to queries. This may mean some implications for pedagogy: for e.g. to cut-down on whole class instruction and teacher-directed talk, expand group-based intellectual work, design tasks/activities meant for small group exploration or completion, and spending more time on small-group instruction/interaction.

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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