What is History Teaching?, pp. 7 of 10

Step Two

The teacher may give the students a set of sources that they can use as evidence. These are the clues left behind to help the historian investigate the past. Not all sources would become evidences for the investigation. Since we are dealing with the primary level, teachers may want to choose sources that specifically help the students answer the investigation. The sources should be edited to suit the reading ability of the students without changing the meaning of the source. Sources should also show various perspectives so that students will realise that the construction of an account is not so straight forward as their textbook makes it out to be.

The teacher can scaffold the students’ reading of the sources by giving them reading frames to help them draw out the crux of the evidence that is related to the inquiry. They can get the students to ask the “Who, what, when, where, how” questions to draw out the relevant information needed to aid them in their investigation. The teacher can also help students by giving them scaffolding questions to help them read the sources.

Step Three

The next stage in the process of “doing history” is to get students to analyze the sources. Some students may need guidance at this stage. Teachers can provide some guiding questions or hints to help students along.

Step Four

Students make a judgement and come to a conclusion about the investigation.

Step Five

Students write their accounts based on the available evidence. It does not necessarily have to be in an essay form. Depending on their age, ability or the different learning styles, students can do storytelling, write a diary, write a newspaper article or even draw their own comic strips about the inquiry that they have just done. The ways in which the teacher can assess for understanding of the investigation is limitless, as long as the conclusion that their students have arrived at is based on the available evidence.

The pedagogy suggested above outlines an investigation in the classroom. Students become detectives of the past using the sources that teachers give them to use as evidences to write their own accounts. Thus, pupils construct history.

An investigation in the Field

Historical inquiry can also be carried out in the field. An investigation in the field must be planned like a lesson. In other words, it must still have an introduction, body and conclusion. The syllabus offers a great deal of potential for field investigation in areas like Kampong Glam, Chinatown and Little India. The field studies need not be directly related to the topics in the syllabus but may be an enrichment of their understanding of what they have been taught from the syllabus or an extension of the skills of investigation as they deal with actual artefacts out in the field – they thus are given an opportunity to engage in authentic investigation.

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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