Building the Habit of Evidential Thinking

Teaching History article

By Anna Aiken, published 4th October 2017

An accessible, structured approach for building the intuitive habit of evidential thinking before the examination years

Anna Aiken and her history colleagues had been reflecting on the stubborn problem of students failing to tackle GCSE questions about sources with adequate thought or understanding of evidence. Teaching them the typical requirements of the GCSE examination even appeared to make things worse, encouraging superficiality and failing to  bring about secure responses. Aiken and her colleagues noted that the problems were not new. They made a study of earlier efforts to tackle the same problems by history teachers over the last 20 years. Inspired by an approach developed by Huijgen and Holthius in the Netherlands (Teaching History 158), they adapted and re-adapted until their own version began to tackle their students’ particular difficulties. Aiken’s approach involves starting early, in Key Stage 3, but not by replicating examination questions. Aiken goes back to fundamentals in evidential thinking, tackling typical problems head on in order to build better habits and dispositions...

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