Life by sources A to F: really using sources to teach AS history


By Gary Howells, published 31st August 2007

The work of Gary Howells will be familiar to many readers of Teaching History—indeed, his last article is heavily cited elsewhere in this edition. He presents here the case in favour of using sources at AS level (16-17 years old). Clearly, historians need to have some form of acquaintance with the source material (rather than accepting everything the teacher says), but they also need to steer clear of ‘death by sources A to F’—in which the student is subjected to a fatally heavy dose of disconnectedly useless and unreliable sources taken out of context. Howells provides a compelling rationale for this, but as always the real core of his article is practically based. He provides three activities, arranged in a progression model which will enable students really to engage with the sources they use and, incidentally, set them up rather well for the historiography they will encounter at A2. He also demonstrates how a wellchosen source can both set up a lesson for students to enjoy, and build students’ knowledge base, and prepare them for the exam. He shows us how to integrate sources into AS teaching to excellent effect.

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