What is History Teaching?, pp. 3 of 10

History’s habits of mind (NCHE, n.d.) empower and enable individuals to:

  1. Grasp the significance of the past in shaping the present,
  2. Perceive past events and issues as they might have been experienced by the people of the time, with historical empathy rather than present-mindedness,
  3. Read critically, to discern differences between evidence and assertion and to frame useful and appropriate questions about the past,
  4. Interrogate texts and artifacts, posing questions about the past that foster informed discussion, reasoned debate and evidence-based interpretation,
  5. Recognize that history is an evolving narrative constructed from available sources, cogent inferences and changing interpretations,
  6. Appreciate the diversity of cultures and variety of historical contexts, as well as to distinguish elements of our shared humanity,
  7. Understand the impact made by individuals, groups and institutions at local, national and global levels both in effecting change and in ensuring continuity,
  8. Realize that all individuals are decision makers, but that personal and public choices are often restricted by time, place and circumstance,
  9. Negotiate a complex, often uncertain and ambiguous world, equipped with the appreciation for multiple perspectives, and
  10. Engage in patient reflection and constant reexamination of the past and present.

Teaching for Historical Understanding

In teaching for historical understanding, teachers need to consider two broad groups of concepts – substantive concepts and procedural concepts.

1. Substantive Concepts:

Historians use evidence to create a construction of the past. The account that is written and the concepts that accompany these accounts, such as civilisation, governments, and colony are known as the substance of history (substantive knowledge) (Schwab, 1964). Concepts are not just names. Understanding concepts involves knowing a set of rules and being able to identify instances of that rule (National Research Council, 2005).

How Might We Teach Substantive Concepts?

In the chapter on “Identifying What to Teach: Using Concepts, Generalizations and DrivingQuestions”, you have been given some suggestions on some pedagogies that will help you to teach concepts. Here is another suggestion.

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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