What is History Teaching?, pp. 4 of 10

Take a look at your syllabus. Identify the history components.

Take the topic “civilisations” – what in the topic is important enough for you to teach so that students achieve understanding? Is it what is written in your textbook – the Indus Civilisation or Shang Civilisation, or is it the concept of “civilisation”? Which method would lead to deep understanding which would allow your students to transfer that knowledge to new situations?

To teach a substantive concept like “civilisation” you can use either the deductive approach or inductive method. With the deductive approach you give the students the definition (in this case what are the features that would identify a community as a “civilisation”) and then use the various civilisations in your textbook to illustrate the features. With the inductive approach, you and your students try to find the features of each civilisation under study from the textbook. From there induce what the features of a civilisation are. Once your students can identify the features that make up a civilisation, they should then be able apply this conceptual understanding to identify any other community that they come across to judge whether the community is a civilisation. If you just teach them about a particular civilisation and get them to memorise and regurgitate the information about this particular civilisation, students will not have developed deep understanding and may not be able to transfer learnt knowledge to new situations.

2. Procedural Concepts:

Another aspect of the knowledge bases of history is historical procedures. This deals with how historians construct their knowledge. Understanding this knowledge is very important as the discipline of history is not about memorizing factual information but is a multidimensional process. If all we do when we teach history is story telling or getting students to get their information from the textbook, then we are doing the discipline an injustice and not allowing our students to understand the complex procedures involved in “doing history”. Moreover, history offers a storehouse of complex and rich problems, that which we confront daily in the world. Examining these problems requires an interpretive acumen that extends beyond the ‘locate information in the text’ skills that dominate many school tasks. The study of history should be an experience in authentic problem solving as this is what the historian does when he finally writes his accounts.

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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