Triumphs Show 180: From ‘most able’ to ‘mini’ historians

Teaching History feature

By Laura Tilley, published 5th October 2020

From ‘most able’ to ‘mini’ historians

Finding ways to stretch and challenge the highest-attaining students has been a long-standing concern of many history teachers, and strategies for doing so have developed far beyond merely bolting on additional tasks. One way in which I have sought to challenge my own high-attaining students has been by setting them independent research tasks. Yet my early experiments frequently failed to live up to my expectations. Too often, even the highest attainers struggled to resist the urge to copy and paste from Wikipedia. Too often, I found that research tasks, which felt ambitious and exciting to me as a teacher, culminated in half a page of regurgitated and unstructured information: more fact-file than argument. Yet, as Hammond has argued, undertaking their own historical research has the potential to stretch students’ historical understanding because it requires them to both frame their own genuinely historical questions and to reflect on what is required to develop a sufficiently robust answer.

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