Historical scholarship and feedback

Using an academic historian as the gold standard for feedback

By Carolyn Masse, published 12th October 2016

‘What Would Figes Do?’

In her introduction to this piece, Carolyn Massey describes history teachers as professionals who pride themselves on ‘a sophisticated understanding of change and continuity’. How often, though, do we bemoan change when it comes, as it so often has recently? Massey’s article provides an example of how to embrace change, and to make something better than that which went before. She describes how she encouraged her Year 12 students to provide feedback for themselves and others by asking, ‘What would Figes do?’ Their historical writing improved; they also became absorbed in the work of a real historian, going beyond the textbook and beyond the demands of the exam. Massey also uses and explains the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ as a technique for enabling students to share feedback.

The ideas in this article arose from Massey’s need to create a post-16 course from scratch, including a formative assessment framework which would be more effective than trying merely to use the exam board’s summative mark-scheme. Her first reaction was to think deeply about what her aims were, and to read the literature detailing what other teacher-practitioners had done to solve the problem of making assessment meaningful to their students. She also engaged herself in recent thinking about the problem of genericism in history education. Her solution is grounded in the pages of this journal and in the work of other history educators on their blogs, in her school’s assessment procedures and in national policy - as well as in ideas about what it is to engage in the discipline of history. As a result of her thoughtful adaptation of others’ ideas, and of her reflective response to her own practice, Massey’s students now engage in the type of peer review that characterises the work of real historians. All this from the need to write a new A-level…

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