Towards an Effective Professional Development Model to Deepen History Teachers’ Understanding of Historical Concepts, pp. 3 of 16

The new curriculum for school history in Singapore (introduced in 2013 for the Upper Secondary History students and in 2014 for the Lower Secondary History students) signalled a move towards a discipline-oriented, inquiry-based approach to the Humanities. The syllabuses were designed to get students to come to grips with the nature of the historical discipline – its structure, attributes and ways of knowing – and positioned historical understanding at the heart of history teaching and learning (Afandi, 2013). The goal of the history curriculum was to “develop in the History learner a reasoned, inquiring, methodical and discerning mind, capable of demonstrating a balanced perspective and having a disposition for empathetic understanding in history and develop students’ understanding of historical concepts and build their competencies in historical skills” (Upper Secondary History Teaching and Learning Guide, 2012, p.20). In line with this objective, instructional materials and teaching resources were constructed to support teachers in planning schemes of work, designing instructional strategies and devising assessment structures that can guide them towards the development of the intended competencies and disciplinary understandings.     

While resources[i], teaching packages and strategies play an important role in helping teachers deliver the curricular intent, teaching students to think historically is not a matter of simply utilising available material to deliver instructions in the history classrooms. Teaching students to develop deeper understandings about history and build historical thinking skills involves a commitment on the part of teachers to develop their own knowledge bases. By equipping themselves with the necessary skills and disciplinary knowledge to understand the nature of historical knowledge, teachers can more confidently design curriculum and pedagogical strategies that foster historical thinking in students (Barton & Levstik, 2011). To improve instructional expertise, well-designed PD is critical in helping teachers master content and hone teaching skills, as well as evaluate performance (both their own and their students’) and address changes needed in teaching and learning in their schools (Darling-Hammond, 2009). Equally crucial is for teachers to develop an understanding of their own assumptions, educational beliefs and classroom practices, as these are likely to affect the kinds of curriculum decisions they make and the manner in which they execute their craft.

Related Teaching Materials

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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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