Using individuals’ stories to help GCSE students to explain change and causation

By Matthew Fearns-Davies, published 19th April 2021

Does it matter who Vesalius’s favourite lecturer was?

Should we, and how do we, develop in our students a sense of period – or a series of senses of period – in a thematic study spanning a thousand years? This was the problem faced by Matthew Fearns-Davies in preparing for the GCSE ‘Health and the People’ paper. He shows in this article the ways in which he considered the problem of chronological dislocation, which might otherwise be caused by teaching so wide a spread of content in a limited time. His solution was to choose four individuals to introduce in depth, acting as windows into their own periods and providing a contextual basis for the others around them, developing existing techniques such as Hammond’s ‘scale switching’. His students were therefore able to maintain a broad chronological overview of what they were studying, without losing sight of the contexts in which the changes (and continuities) they were learning about occurred...

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