Triumphs Show 193: Year 8 imagine the First World War trenches

By Erin Grady, published 11th January 2024

Lived experiences and past worlds: Year 8 imagine the trenches

Deep into my PGCE year, I found myself discussing with my mentor how to pre-empt the barriers to understanding the past that students may face. One barrier we discussed was presentism: the tendency of students to interpret the past in light of their own modern knowledge, values and experiences. In particular, we considered the difficulties this may create for students in understanding the perspectives of people in the past. As I pondered this, I came across Mike Hill’s article about world building. I was fascinated by the way that Hill characterised the difficulty students faced when approaching the past, describing the past as a ‘secondary world’, an ‘unfamiliar place’ which they struggle to comprehend. This begs history teachers to consider how they might support their students in overcoming these barriers. Hill considers what forms a student’s imagined past might take and how teachers can develop this, arguing in favour of ‘world building’ as a possible solution. ‘World building’, according to Hill, consists of the curricular processes through which teachers aim to develop students’ imagined past. I was inspired to experiment with world building in my own teaching practice, to see how it might help my pupils to build a richer imagined past...

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