Engaging Year 9 with Victorian debates about 'progress'

Teaching History article

By Jonathan White, published 9th August 2010

Encountering diversity in the history of ideas

Jonathan White wanted to fill a gap in his students' knowledge of the history of ideas. Despite the appearance of Marx, Smith, Darwin and Malthus in the department's workscheme for Year 9, his Year 13 students appeared to lack any meaningful grasp of these nineteenth-century intellectual reference points. White therefore set about constructing a new enquiry which would give his Year 9 students some thorough and lasting understandings of Victorian ideas. In order to maximise motivation and engagement, he decided to build an enquiry that would culminate in a lively ‘inperiod' debate, with students arguing for and against ‘progress' from the perspective of various Victorians. The lesson sequence therefore also secured a focus on diversity as a concept: his students were required to discern and analyse the type and extent of diversity that can be found in wideranging Victorian views and attitudes. White explains, illustrates and critically evaluates his lesson sequence (summarised in the Cunning Plan on page 14). He also shares thoughts on how he plans to improve the sequence next year.

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