Move Me On 186: trainee provides little scope for students to use their knowledge in analysis/argument

Teaching History feature

Published: 6th April 2022

Trainee places a huge emphasis on getting students’ knowledge secure, but provides little scope for them to use it in analysis or argument

Move Me On is designed to build critical, informed debate about the character of teacher training, teacher education and professional development. It is also designed to offer practical help to all involved in training new history teachers. Each issue presents a situation in initial teacher education/training with an emphasis upon a particular history-specific issue. 
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Anne Lister is a few weeks into her second school placement and her mentor is concerned that her lessons have an overwhelming focus on developing students’ substantive knowledge but then provide little opportunity for their own historical thinking. Anne’s lesson plans follow the school’s standard policy in beginning with a series of short factual questions intended to provide retrieval practice. While departments (and the teachers within them) have more scope to determine the structure and sequence of learning in the rest of the lesson, Anne tends to follow a very similar pattern: familiarising students with new material, usually through extended written texts that are read aloud, followed by completion of a table within which the new factual information is sorted and recorded. While these exercises require a degree of comprehension and some process of categorisation, the latter is usually already implicit in the structure of the text from which the students are working. Where Anne’s lesson plans do include consideration of questions that require students to put forward and justify their own claims or to evaluate those made by others, such tasks tend to be left to the end of the lesson and are often squeezed out because earlier activities – the shared reading, the comprehension questions that she asks at various points within it, or the modelling that she provides in relation to completing the table – end up taking longer than she had intended. When there is time for further questions that require some kind of evaluation, Anne tends to skate over the judgement process involved in reaching a decision, focusing the students’ attention on the factual details they might use ‘as evidence’ to support their claims but essentially ignoring the question as to how they might reach a judgement...

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