A hankering for the blank spaces: enabling the very able to explore the limits of GCSE

Teaching History article

By Oliver Knight, published 5th December 2008

Please note: this article pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum and some content may be outdated.

Many of us would love to have the problems encountered by Oliver Knight at his previous school. His students were simply doing too well - leaving him wondering how to stretch them to the limit during their GCSEs. His article provides some practical advice and ideas about what to do in the classroom to draw a comparison between Stalinist Russia (on the specification) and Pol Pot's Cambodia (off  it). Of perhaps even greater value, though, is the journey which Knight undertook, and has documented for us, in his professional thought about how to stretch students who would have complied had he asked them to copy facts out of the textbook. He has produced a synthesis of what it is to get better in history, drawing on the ideas of Peter Lee and Christine Counsell, Rob Phillips and Denis Shemilt, to produce something of his own in the distinction between the different types of historical knowledge. His subject matter - the cyclical (or otherwise) nature of history, and the political legacy of Marxism - is, of course, horrendously complex. This article shows us how we might inch our students towards that sort of understanding, making progress one concept at a time and delighting in the journey...

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