What’s the wisdom on… Causation

Teaching History feature

Last updated: 10th December 2019

Causation

What's the Wisdom On... is a short guide providing new history teachers with an overview of the ‘story so far’ of practice-based professional thinking about a particular aspect of history teaching. It draws on tried and tested approaches arising from teachers with years of experimenting, researching, practising, writing and debating their classroom experience. It therefore synthesises key messages from Teaching History articles, blogs and other publications. The guide includes practical suggestions suitable for any key stage and signposts basic reading essentials for new professionals. See all guides in this series

One kind of problem a professional historian tackles is the explanation of why events occur and why situations arise. Explaining why is often known as causal explanation.

An important thing for new history teachers to remember is that causal explanation is nothing to do with the more general meaning of ‘explaining’ in the sense of ‘explication’, expounding, setting out or giving more detail. Instead, think of the expression, ‘How do you explain that?’ It usually means ‘Why did this thing come about?’, as opposed to explaining how a bicycle works or explaining what the Treaty of Versailles was...

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