Anatomy of enquiry: deconstructing an approach to history curriculum planning

Teaching History article

By Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn, published 16th December 2019

It is almost 20 years since Michael Riley first invited Key Stage 3 history teachers to ‘choose and plant’ their enquiry questions. Many members of the history education community have taken up that invitation, making use of overarching enquiry questions to structure students’ learning. But what is meant by enquiry in this context is sometimes poorly understood by senior leaders and policy makers, particularly those who are not history specialists.

In writing this article, Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn seek to clarify what they regard as the essential features of any historical enquiry within the school curriculum. In setting out this detailed anatomy, they draw on seven enquiries developed by different teachers and shared in the pages of Teaching History over the past 20 years. They also draw on three of their own enquiries, developed as directors of Justice to History, working in partnership with others. Just as Riley turned to the idea of garden design, so Mohamud and Whitburn provide readers with a powerful metaphor to enrich the explanation of each of their essential elements.

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