Teaching for Historical Understanding (TfHU): Developing a Discipline-based Curriculum Model at Tanjong Katong Secondary School, pp. 3 of 17

Yet, despite the changes that are meant to promote critical thinking in history, successful implementation of the new curriculum will be limited if methods of teaching still pursue a traditional teacher-centred approach; simply giving students the stories they should know may not be the best way to get them to learn history (see Shemilt, 1980 and Lee, 1999). Research evidence in the UK clearly indicated that teaching substantially modified, or changed students’ ideas (Shemilt, 1980; Lee, Ashby & Dickinson, 1996; Lee & Ashby, 2000), and as such, important historical understandings and dispositions (such as those mentioned above) have to be developed in the classroom. Equally important, is the recognition that a teacher’s grasp of the principles and processes of history teaching will likely affect the growth and quality of adolescents’ historical reasoning (Shemilt, 1980). Explicit concept-related teaching and historical instruction that give students exposure to a way of thinking about the nature of historical knowledge in provisional and propositional terms – as sets of ideas or proposals open to debate and conjecture – would be critical in enhancing and transforming student understandings in history.

Teaching for Historical Understanding (TfHU) Project at Tanjong Katong Secondary School

One of the key ideas underlying TKSS’ Teaching for Historical Understanding (TfHU) project is the recognition that understanding history requires that students acquire and use knowledge about history in ways that can allow them to make sense of the past, beyond mere memorisation and regurgitation of facts and figures. The act of understanding history entails a process where students acquire knowledge, develop skills, and apply key historical concepts in the context of an inquiry into the past. This focus on developing a level of understanding – one that can serve TKSS students while in school and throughout their lives – cuts across many subject areas in the Tanjong Katong (TK) Curriculum. 

Context

The TK Curriculum aims to develop students who are self-directed leaners and passionate about each and every pursuit they undertake. The model TK graduate is one who is confident, resilient and flexible, and one who is guided by sound values to lead and contribute to school, nation and the global community. To support the development of such graduates, the TK Curriculum is designed to equip students with discipline-based literacies as well as other knowledge literacies such as ICT-competency, 21st century learning skills and social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies. TKSS teachers are consequently expected to acquire a high level of disciplinary expertise and be competent in their respective subject areas.

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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