Enhancing Students’ Understanding of Bi-Polarity in the History Classroom , pp. 2 of 13

Studying the Cold War

Owing to the construct and constraints of school curriculum and the syllabus, it is natural for knowledge about the Cold War to be structured around key developments. Such approach is both rewarding and challenging – while students are able to study in-depth the key developments which broadly shaped the political trajectory of both the USA and the USSR after the Second World War, important developments such as détente and the Sino-Soviet split may have been accorded lesser attention. A deeper analysis of these events could have allowed for a more nuanced understanding of Cold War history. While the current syllabus has ensured that students are still able to gain an awareness of these events through the timeline and brief description of developments in the 1970s, several pertinent questions remained: First, how can teachers convey these developments effectively without confusing students or presenting them with an overly complicated account about the Cold War? Second, how can teachers help enhance students’ understandings of concepts such as bi-polarity so that students can develop a deeper understanding of Cold War history? This paper proposes a few possible pedagogical approaches which may be of use in helping to correct student misconceptions about the concept of bi-polarity, and in turn, help deepen their understanding about developments that took place during the Cold War period.

This paper seeks to explore the ways in which the concept of bi-polarity can be stretched to help students achieve more nuanced understandings about the Cold War and its developments outside of the few key events which have been accorded more attention in the syllabus. The paper examines the ways in which an understanding of second-order concepts such as Chronology, Change and Continuity, can be used to further illustrate the versatility and malleability of bi-polarity as a content concept.

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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