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

Abstract

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.

Introduction

The teaching and learning of History as a disciplinary field of study in schools is a complex and sophisticated endeavor. The assumption that acquiring historical knowledge may be achieved simply by committing historical narratives (including factual details such as events, names and dates) to memory no longer holds. Preparing students for education in the 21st century involves expanding their knowledge base beyond content mastery or information accumulation, to include deeper understanding about the nature of a specific discipline and the development of relevant thinking and reasoning skills that can allow students to engage with the subject matter. Over the past few decades, research on history education has shown that learning history, for the purpose of deeper understanding, involves not only the study of historical narratives but also the acquisition of discipline-specific cognitive strategies that students can use to better learn and understand the past. To be able to better understand the nature of history, students must be equipped not only with the relevant historical content but also with the necessary tools that can enable them to think historically about the past.

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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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