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New Publication about History Teaching

Discussion in 'History' started by dhartley25, May 4, 2012.

  1. dhartley25

    dhartley25 New commenter

  2. dhartley25

    dhartley25 New commenter

  3. MarkJH

    MarkJH New commenter

    I think that the link is wrong-it connected to a pamphlet on the future of Scotland!
  4. A really good development that if carried out correctly will improve history teaching and student participation and the overall enjoyment of the subject. The criticism of repetition, over-specification and exams is valid and well made.

    Schools should be encouraged to have History Departments rather than Humanities Departments, this I believe is the biggest problem for the subject. Heads of History should receive a decent allowance to encourage the subject to flourish in schools.

    Heritage education needs a higher priority. Why students go and visit the war graves in France or Belgium but don't visit the multitude of castles, abbey ruins and cathedrals around the country is crazy.

    With the increased focus on knowledge, skills should not be discarded, neither should critical thinking or the discussion of major concepts that have shaped various time periods.

    All in all I think it is a great proposal based on the desire to make history a more fun and engaging subject for young people.
  5. MarkJH

    MarkJH New commenter

    I agree that many of the criticisms of e.g. the current exam system in the report are spot on. They've obviously spoken to teachers about these matters, which is a relief as I was worried that the whole thing might be an ill-informed rant by ivory tower academics. The critique of the wretched OCR A2 'Investigations and Interpretaions' coursework perfectly reflects my own views.
    Just to take issue with you a bit-I'm sure that I'm not the only person who conducts battlefield tours and also visits to castles, cathedrals, museums etc at home as part of my History teaching. Please also note my use of the term 'battlefield tours'. They are not simply visits to war graves.
  6. annajordan

    annajordan New commenter

    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Or it will be, when I see adopted the recommendation of this report, that politicians withdraw their interference in the History curriculum. Moreover, the phrase "greater simplicity, greater freedom, greater coherence, greater transparency, and less interference " is music to my ears! However, replacing the interference of politicians with that of "some of our leading academic historians" who "will write school history texts" is merely one step forward and two steps back. Whilst I fully respect the credentials of our ‘leading academic historians', they are experts in academia, not in education. In fact, what is required in schools is ‘leading history teachers' to be both influential and instrumental in the generation of dynamic new material. Academic historians may have greater depth of subject knowledge but history teachers are themselves no intellectual slouches; it is far easier for a specialist history teacher to develop subject knowledge than for an academic to acquire an appreciation of what makes a meaningful, interesting, well-structured and accessible curriculum. Improving History provision in schools is about more than ‘allowing' teachers greater freedom; it is about affording them the professional respect to recognise that they do not require interference/guidance/expertise from outside agency (without invitation).
    Nevertheless, I agree with many of the problems identified in the report, and support the vision for whole-sale revision of the curriculum, rather than minor tinkering, though there are issues which have not been addressed:
    I agree that "History is studied as a disconnected succession of over-specialized and decontextualized topics." This is owing to insufficient time devoted to the subject to deliver an understanding of the broad sweep. However, I would absolutely refute the charge of the report that this time pressure results in "too little class time for imaginative teaching and discussion." It does not; it means that the historical content becomes narrower to allow for imaginative teaching - we are not spoon feeding them a story, we are helping them become historians. Nevertheless, I do fully support the recommendation that "History should be an important part of every child's education up to and including GCSE", in some capacity. This would certainly reverse the increasing prevalence of 2 year key stage 3 courses, which have been adopted by many schools as a result of the league-table driven hysteria over GCSE results and, thereby, give History time to explore the past more widely.
    I also agree that "the „skills? required are often hollow and mean little to those forced to acquire or indeed teach them", resulting directly in the further problem that: "the nature of the examinations requires excessive coaching, and often makes examination technique rather than historical understanding the focus of teaching". This is the direct outcome of lack of time. The complexity of the skills required of junior historians is enormous. Students need time to think, not just receive. In the absence of this time, they have to be coached. Certainly, one laudable solution would be to amend the GCSE examination structure, as suggested by Politeia. However, I think addressing examination criteria is only part of the picture. Any review of the curriculum also needs to explore and address the underlying conceptual issues which make the study of History both so challenging and so valuable for young historians:
    Firstly, the past is inaccessible in a way that mathematical solutions, the results of chemistry experiments, the religious beliefs of different cultures, etc. are not. The past has to be recreated from echoes and fragments and thus students are left in the realms of the ‘probable' and/or ‘possible', rather than certainty. This ambiguity is often difficult for young students to handle.
    Secondly, it is not even enough to be able to piece together a picture of a period from fragments, students also have to somehow appreciate that the ‘whole' pieced together was immeasurably different from the world today. More confusingly, it was different to today in different ways at different times. A student of 11 has very limited experience even of his/her own world. There is a very real challenge in helping children to see the world through different eyes, when they are not yet sure how they see it through their own, without resorting simply to superficialities of dress or custom. Moreover, students have to then overcome the tempting hurdle of seeing this ‘difference' between past and present as a progressive journey from ‘stupidity' to ‘intelligence'. Given that children see themselves as journeying from a place where they couldn't tie their own shoelaces to one where they can do simultaneous equations, it is an understandable temptation.
    Thirdly, even if students can navigate these murky waters, of generating a sense of the past from fragments and of recognising that this past was constructed differently, though no less validly, to the present, they then run into the nebulous concepts of historical change and significance. These higher order skills required by junior historians are again at variance with their life experience. For example, students see historical change as event centred as it is in their life: they have a birthday (event) they are one year older (change occurs). Historical change is often a much more gradual process, so something like the industrial revolution is conceptually difficult to access. Secondly, students see events as having inherent significance. Again, this is their life experience: starting a new school has significance for them, and they cannot yet appreciate how this significance will change depending on their later experiences. Therefore, they find it difficult to comprehend that historical events have attributed, not inherent, significance: Columbus landing in America in 1492 was something of a non-event. It was only by 1792 when America, a new nation, was looking for some way of generating a sense of national identity that Columbus' arrival in America became a cause for celebration.
    I could go on. I am sure I am not the only History teacher who would like to see a report, and a curriculum review, which goes deeper than surface content and the nature of examination, to explore some of the genuine challenges and opportunities inherent in the subject. Maybe someone should ask us??

  7. This would create a five year time frame in which you could cover a
    decent amount. They may be making a continuation through primary years
    as well.[​IMG]

  8. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Any serious evidence that the Government will make History compulsory to 16? If not, then these well meaning proposals will come to very little.
  9. I on the whole welcome research into History teaching in schools and any attempt to raise recognition and standards is of course meant well. However, at the moment I agree that there are problems with the History exam system at the moment at GCSE (1), and at A Level (2), but I do dislike the sweeping generalisations aimed at our profession especially the main heading "What's wrong with school History?" (3)
    <ol>[*]Exams - My students find History exams difficult. They have generally not got used to idea of the E Bacc yet and still place importance on English and Maths over History, no matter how much they enjoy the subject. I am lucky enough to teach SHP so my GCSE students do have a broad bredth of chronology which maintains interest from the students.A lot of my students have excellent knowledge and understanding, and they are keen to show this off in observations or revision sessions etc, but, will misread what the question is asking or lack literacy in places. When stimuli is offered my students will fall into the trap and focus on writing about them no matter how many times they have been told to think of their own.Many cany students realise that History exams involve a lot of writing, and so shockingly will choose Geography instead! My students also feel very pressurised to complete 3 exams of 5 questions all to be completed in 1 hour 15 mins, and don't even get me started on CA!!!! [*]At A Level, I agreed in part with the publication. Especially the part where it stated that: "Many examiners seem to know little about the topics they mark" I used to be an Edexcel examiner myself for the legacy unit 2 and unit 6 which for me meant specialised knowledge on Stalin and Lenin. If I wanted to mark now the same topics, I would also be required to mark papers on China and the USA as well as Russia, despite not having secure enough knowledge! However, I do not agree that the exams are dismally easy, the list of required revision material for Edexcel unit 1 option d is extensive and I wish my students luck tomorrow!! [*]"What's wrong with school History?" Why can the title here not be: "lets make History teaching better", not suggest that we are doing a bad job as History teachers! In my experience, students enjoy my lessons and History lessons in the cluster of academies my school is under. Numbers and attainment were rising even before theintroduction of the E Bacc! I managed to teach a vast swath of History without repetition and even taught skills through a guide to prehistoric Britain. I may be lucky with the number of lessons key stage 3 are given and the number of subject specialist teachers that I have, but surely I am not the only representative of an Academy teaching History well. With the flexibility that the curriculum offers at the moment there are some great ways in which to teach History though a well planned curriculum with a detailed rationale! Just look at the example here from OFSTED: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/good-practice-resource-putting-local-community-heart-of-key-stage-3-history-curriculum-copleston-hig </ol>

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