Towards an Effective Professional Development Model to Deepen History Teachers’ Understanding of Historical Concepts, pp. 15 of 16

Such PD design could perhaps allow for teachers to incorporate new learnings so that their prior beliefs can be accommodated or potentially (and dramatically) transformed (Alongi, Heddy & Sinatra, 2012: Limon, 2002).


Teaching history to students is not simply about getting them to learn fixed historical narratives or having them commit to memory factual knowledge about the past. Many history education researchers would argue that students needed to be taught aspects of the historical discipline if they were to develop proper understandings about how knowledge about the past has been constructed. For teachers to do this well, they would need to deepen their own disciplinary understandings, and become more familiar and proficient at dealing with second-order ‘historical concepts’ such as ‘accounts’, ‘evidence’, ‘significance’, ‘causation’, ‘empathy’ and ‘diversity’ (MOE, 2012). ‘Capacity-building’ measures (such as providing teachers with access to training courses, workshops and resources) aimed at deepening teachers’ disciplinary foundation and equipping them with a stronger understanding of second-order concepts in history, are critical if teachers are to competently manage students’ learning experiences. An effective PD structure that is designed to develop history teachers’ knowledge bases, transform their beliefs about history learning, and raise teaching competencies to improve classroom practice, will be critical in effecting important changes that are in line with a history curriculum that is discipline-based and inquiry-driven.

Even though this is a very small-scale study of 16 participants, the authors believe that the findings have important implications for PD design and provide insights on ways to think about participant conceptual change. Some of these include: 

  1. Planning and designing for conceptual focus, conscious practice and belief change
  2. Planning for collaboration and support systems
  3. Designing for conscious practice focused on classroom instruction
  4. Site-embedded PD and classroom practice
  5. Space for feedback, critique and celebration

We believe that these guidelines can be useful as a basis upon which further PD work can be devised and structured. It is hoped that the limited findings from this initial small-scale study would help teacher educators, curriculum leaders and staff developers consider more effective ways to design PD modules or workshops that can help history teachers develop deeper understandings about historical concepts and the ways to teach these concepts to students, thereby raising the level of historical thinking and discourse that takes place in our classrooms

Related Teaching Materials

Annex30.36 KB

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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