Teaching for Historical Understanding (TfHU): Developing a Discipline-based Curriculum Model at Tanjong Katong Secondary School, pp. 4 of 17

In the teaching and learning of history, the common challenge facing most history teachers in TKSS revolves around ways to approach historical instruction that builds and extends students’ historical understanding. Often, teachers are likely to teach history by prioritising or placing heavy emphases on syllabus requirements and content acquisition. Although these teachers use questions to prompt students to think more critically about past events, students are seldom given adequate opportunities to apply important historical concepts to an investigation of a specific historical event. The kinds of conventional teaching that takes place in TK history classrooms frequently lacked an investigative element, and hardly offered students opportunities to engage with the past in “disciplinary” ways. Consequently, such instruction often falls short of achieving “historical understanding” goals. More recently, history teachers at TKSS have begun to recognise that effective teaching in history requires that they focus on an instruction that fosters students’ understanding of the discipline. To achieve this goal, these teachers acknowledged the need to strengthen subject matter expertise, to develop sound understanding of historical concepts and historical thinking skills, and to build up competencies in designing pedagogical tools to support the development of students’ historical understanding.

Aims/goals of the project

To equip teachers with the necessary pedagogical tools to approach the teaching and learning of history in more effective ways, the TK History unit decided to embark on their “Teaching for Historical Understanding” (TfHU) project. They engaged Dr. Suhaimi Afandi from NIE (HSSE) as a consultant and formulated a professional development (PD) design that supported the development of a discipline-based curriculum model for the teaching of history across all educational levels at TKSS. The aims of the project included:

  • to develop teachers’ understanding of the nature of historical knowledge,
  • to equip teachers with pedagogical tools to approach the teaching of historical concepts in a way that can develop students’ historical understanding,
  • to develop (with teachers) lesson designs, learning goals, teaching strategies and instructional materials that can foster students’ understanding in history, and
  • to equip teachers with the knowledge to construct a curriculum model based on a Teaching for (Historical) Understanding framework in an ongoing and sustainable way.

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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