Gladstone spiritual or Gladstone material? A rationale for using documents at AS and A2


By Gary Howells, published 28th August 2000

Rather than taking a sledgehammer approach to planning for the new AS and A2 courses Gary Howells has used the opportunity to reflect on characteristics of students' historical learning in the post-16 phase. He argues for a much fuller rationale for using documents than mere preparation for exams or coursework. He sees documents, rather, as critical to developing students' historical thinking at this particular stage, linking their cognitive difficulties with attendant problems such as lack of student confidence, motivation, curiosity and personal engagement. Through his structured discussion activity, and an emphasis on image and language, a problematic, interesting Gladstone emerges. A key theme is Gary's view that emotional engagement builds enduring knowledge in students' minds. Secure knowledge and a confident, questioning approach are what will mark out the high achievers in AS and A2 in the end, so this is still very much a prescription for success in examination, but one that moves through an analysis of students' learning needs and a reflection on the nature of history, rather than a narrow, teaching-to-the-test model.

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