Historical Evidence: Archaeological Practice as a Pedagogical Tool for Historical Education in Singapore, pp. 7 of 10

Lesson 2 – interpreting historical objects

In this lesson, students were given an individual task to reconstruct a historical object by closely examining the artefact at hand. As the pieces in the source-kit are limited and small in size, a picture card (see Figure 8) was used in this lesson. As students attempt to recreate the piece, they began to make interpretations about the data that they have collected.

Many students were able to make clear observations about the object by pointing out the curved feature in the picture and how it had a base that allowed the artefact to stand. Some even went further by raising questions about the “ring” present in artefact and how it was formed. Many of them exercised their creativity in this activity and made intelligent guesses about the object through their illustrations (see Figures 9 and 10).

This lesson taught students how to extract certain pieces of information to help them make good guesses about the past. Students were not corrected if the objects they drew were inaccurate as I wanted the student to go through the process of logical deduction based on what they observed. Students were given guidance if it was an illogical interpretation of what the object could be. At the end of the lesson, I revealed what the complete object actually looks like. Throughout this process, students also gained a valuable skill that historians employ – inference, which will be useful when they start to work on SBCS.

Lesson 3 – drawing conclusions

In the final lesson, students were tasked to form conclusions about Singapore’s early past based on the various inferences and interpretations they have made in Lessons 1 and 2. The inquiry question they had to answer was “what was life like in 14th-century Singapore?”

Students were quick and eager to share their observations and group work by presenting them in class. Some concluded that Singapore was a trading hub and had various trading connections with other countries due to the presence of Chinese porcelain while others claimed that Singapore was technologically advanced as the people were able to design and imprint intricate patterns on the artefacts. These were important observations and inferences they have made which enriched their learning about 14th-century Singapore.

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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