Knowing what counts in history: historical understanding and the non-specialist teacher


By Doug Newton and Lynn Newton , published 9th September 1998

If science graduates think that history teaching is not about questioning, that there is only ‘one answer' in history or that historical facts are unproblematic, does it matter? Should we care? Doug Newton and Lynn Newton argue that it matters very much for the teaching of history. Their article focusses upon primary teachers whose specialism is science and who have no higher education background in history. They argue that where there are serious misunderstandings about the discipline of history then this will have its consequences in the kinds of understandings teachers seek to develop in children. At the very least, this has serious implications for the proper professional education of these teachers. It also has implications within the secondary school and not just with non-specialist teachers. Do senior managers (especially curriculum managers) understand the precise contribution that history is making to pupils' intellectual, social and moral development? It is very likely that many do not, rendering not only the status of history, but wider curriculum debate in the school, unnecessarily impoverished.

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