Historical Evidence: Archaeological Practice as a Pedagogical Tool for Historical Education in Singapore, pp. 2 of 10

An assignment for my Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) fieldtrip course further allowed me to refine this guidebook, which I subsequently put into practice at Hwa Chong Institution (High School Section). The archeology-based lesson strategy then developed into a full-blown inquiry lesson for my students whereby the study of historical artefacts was used to teach students how Singapore’s early past was constructed. Using my past and present experiences, I hope to enhance the way history is taught in schools by developing a pedagogical approach that uses an amalgamation of archaeological method, historical evidence, and an inquiry approach to teaching 14th-century Singapore.

Context

In the teaching and learning of history, educators are often trapped by syllabus requirements and high stakes examinations. Consequently, teaching tends to revolve around direct instruction and asking questions about past events to acquire as much content as possible within a stipulated time. This leads to a misconstrued perception of the study of history as a discipline comprising memorization and regurgitation of facts and figures. More than simply committing information to memory, however, the study of history involves investigating the past through the selection and analysis of historical evidence – in context – to understand how historical interpretations or claims are systematically derived. Developing students’ understanding of the nature of historical evidence, a concept fundamental to a historian’s craft, will help them to pose relevant questions and deepen their understanding about the nature of historical knowledge.

I was concerned that the tentative and interpretive nature of historical study surrounding Singapore’s ancient past may not be easily appreciated by teachers who are unfamiliar with the craft and Secondary 1 students taking History for the first time. If told simply as a “story”, students will likely conceive the narrative about Singapore’s origins – as Temasek, its development as a seaport in the 14th century, and its subsequent decline right until the time it was “founded” by Raffles – as given historical “facts” but without understanding how these “facts” came into being, the grounds upon which the historical claims were made, or the evidence used to support the claims.

Aims/Objectives

Firstly, to equip teachers with the necessary knowledge and pedagogical tools to approach the teaching and learning of pre-Rafflesian Singapore in a more effective manner. Secondly, to deconstruct myths of history as a “memory-work” discipline and develop students’ understanding of how historians construct knowledge about the past.

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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