Towards an Effective Professional Development Model to Deepen History Teachers’ Understanding of Historical Concepts, pp. 9 of 16

Ms Y, a teacher with five years of experience, shared that her teaching had previously focused mainly on content and the teaching of examination skills. However, the lively discussions during the Master Class workshops and hands-on practice regarding the explicit teaching of historical thinking through authentic strategies (e.g. card sort activity) allowed her to understand “why we are doing what we are doing” and “what are the strategies to implement in class”. She tried out the card-sort activity in her school context to teach the concept of causation and shared:

“We hear about it (the new syllabus) but for me, I didn’t have an idea of how we are going to carry it out, how we do it. For me, the Master Class was like a life changing (experience) because you understand the meaning behind why we are doing what we are doing. Secondly, you know what are the strategies to implement in class.”

Even after the Master Class, she continued to try out the card sort activity for the different content areas.

What kind of practice works best when it comes to PD design? Drawing from cognitive learning principles of mass vs. distributed practice found in the domains of psychology, the interview data suggest that conscious practice and attempts made at further pedagogical innovation needs to be interspersed with periods of rest (i.e. distributive practice) which can lead to better acquisition and retention of teaching skills compared with practice delivered in continuous blocks with little or no rest in between (i.e. massed practice) (Marzano, 2001).

Collaboration and Support Systems

The qualitative feedback from the interviews also suggested that a strong emphasis placed on collaboration allowed participants to gain a deeper knowledge of how to teach these historical concepts. The data from the end-of-course feedback indicated that the opportunity to share and discuss different ideas, as well as the generous sharing of resources and collaboration beyond the workshop sessions, allowed participants to develop “critical friendships” (Costa & Kallick, 1993) to engage positively with the experience of planning of lessons, developing resources, teaching lessons and reflecting on their teaching and learning practices.

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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