Cause and consequence

While E.H. Carr’s claim that ‘all history is the history of causes’ may have been widely challenged by historians anxious to demonstrate the breadth of their concerns and the range of other important questions to be asked about the past, causal explanation features prominently in history teaching and learning at all stages within the school curriculum.  The resources in this section will help teachers to think about the nature of progression in students’ understanding of cause and consequence and to recognise common misconceptions that they may need to address. The materials offer a wide range of practical strategies, as well as insights drawn from historians’ practice and research into students’ understanding, that will help teachers to determine the most useful ways of helping students to develop more powerful causal explanations. Some of them also highlight the need to pay more attention in planning schemes of work to the identification, explanation and evaluation of historical consequences. Read more

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  • Moving Year 9 towards more complex causal explanations of Holocaust perpetration

    Article

    Building on research by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, Matthew Duncan was concerned that his students were drawn to simplistic explanations of Holocaust perpetrators’ actions. As well as the UCL Centre’s research, Duncan drew on history education research from Canada and history teachers’ theorisation in England for inspiration in...

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  • Film: What's the wisdom on...Causation

    Article

    We’ve been talking to our secondary school members and we know how difficult life is for teachers in the current circumstances, so we wanted to lend a helping hand. 'What’s the wisdom on…' is a brand-new and already popular feature in our secondary journal Teaching History and provides the perfect...

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  • What’s in a narrative? Unpicking Year 9 narratives of change in Stalin’s Russia

    Article

    Is it structure or the selection of knowledge that makes writing historical narrative so difficult? Where does a conceptual focus on change, or causation, come in? James Ellis set out to explore the challenges his Year 9 pupils faced in writing historical narratives about change. Inspired by the work of...

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  • Changing thinking about cause

    Article

    Aware both that causation is the bread and butter of the historian’s craft, and that trainee teachers find it far harder to teach well than they anticipate, Alex Ford sought to get to the heart of the problem with causation, especially at GCSE. When teaching to a specification and mark...

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  • Planning increasingly complex causal models at Key Stage 3

    Article

    While weighing up the relative merits of the competing narratives of the Battle of Hastings that his department might present to Year 7, Matthew Stanford began to consider how the causal models that teachers introduce influence the causal arguments that students later go on to write. In this article, Stanford...

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  • What’s the wisdom on… Causation

    Article

    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...

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  • Using diagrammatic representations of counterfactuals to develop causal reasoning

    Article

    Tom Bennett begins his article with a tale of a frustrating afternoon with Year 7. We’ve all been there. In his case, his frustration was caused by his finding a conceptual gap between how well his class wanted to do and the actual quality of their causal thinking. Bennett decided...

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  • Couching counterfactuals in knowledge when explaining the Salem witch trials with Year 13

    Article

    Puzzled by the shrugs and unimaginative responses of his students when asked certain counterfactual questions, James Edward Carroll set out to explore what types of counterfactual questions would elicit sophisticated causal explanations. During his pursuit of the ‘gold standard’ of counterfactual reasoning, Carroll drew upon theories of academic history in...

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  • ‘Its ultimate pattern was greater than its parts’

    Article

    Identifying the challenges his students faced both with recall and analysis of the content they had learned for their GCSE course, Ed Durbin devised a solution which focused not on exam skills and revision lessons, but on using Key Stage 3 to build the ‘hinterland’ of contextual knowledge and causal...

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  • The devil is the detail

    Article

    Like many history departments, Hugh Richards' department at Huntington School uses enquiry questions to structure their medium-term planning. Yet Richards noticed that his efforts to build knowledge across an enquiry by teaching macro-narratives as an unfolding story seemed to make it harder for some pupils to see and retain the...

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  • From flight paths to spiders’ webs: developing a progression model for Key Stage 3

    Article

    The disapplication of level descriptions in the 2014 National Curriculum has spurred many history departments to rethink their approach not only to assessment but to their models of progression. In this article Rachael Cook builds on the recent work of history teachers such as Ford (TH157), Hawkey et al (TH161),...

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  • Dealing with the consequences

    Article

    Do GCSE and A-level questions that purport to be about consequences actually reward reasoning about historical consequences at all? Molly-Ann Navey concluded that they do not and that they fail to encourage the kind of argument that academic historians engage in when reaching judgements about consequences. Navey decided that it...

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  • ‘If you had told me before that these students were Russians, I would not have believed it’

    Article

    Bjorn Wansink and his co-authors have aligned their teaching of a recent and controversial historical issue – the Cold War – in the light of a contemporary incident. This article demonstrates a means of ensuring that students understand that different cultures’ views of their shared past are nuanced, rather than monolithic – a different concept in philosophy as well as in...

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  • Does the grammatical ‘release the conceptual’?

    Article

    Jim Carroll noticed basic literacy errors in his Year 13s’ writing, but on closer examination decided that these were not best addressed purely as literacy issues. Through an intervention based on clauses, Carroll managed to enable his students to write better, but he did this by teasing out principles of...

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  • Using nominalisation to develop written causal arguments

    Article

    How nominalisation might develop students’ written causal arguments Frustrated that previously taught writing frames seemed to impede his A-level students’ historical arguments, James Edward Carroll theorised that the inadequacies he identified in their writing were as much disciplinary as stylistic. Drawing on two discourses that are often largely isolated from...

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  • Using causation diagrams to help sixth-formers think about cause and effect

    Article

    Alex Alcoe was concerned that mastery of certain keywords and question formulae at GCSE perhaps obscured fundamental gaps in his students’ understanding of the nature of causation. These gaps were revealed when he invited Year 12 students to make explicit, by annotating a diagram, their understanding of the relationship between...

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  • The knowledge illusion

    Article

    Focusing on students’ attempts to explain the relative significance of different factors in Hitler’s rise to power, Catherine McCrory explores the vexed question of why students who seem able to express necessary historical knowledge on one occasion cannot effectively reproduce it on another. Drawing on a detailed analysis of what...

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  • Teaching the very recent past

    Article

    ‘Miriam's Vision' is an educational project developed by the Miriam Hyman Memorial Trust, an organisation set up in memory of Miriam Hyman, one of the 52 victims of the London bombings of 2005. The project has developed a number of subject-based modules, including history, which are provided free to schools...

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  • Finding the place of substantive knowledge in history

    Article

    ‘What exactly is parliament?' finding the place of substantive knowledge in history The relationship between knowledge and literacy is a central concern for all teachers. In his teaching, Palek noted that his students were struggling to understand complex substantive concepts such as ‘parliament' and decided to explore the relationship between students'...

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  • Assessing the Battle of Waterloo in the classroom

    Article

    Defying the Iron Duke: assessing the Battle of Waterloo in the classroom The approaching bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo has stimulated debate about how it should be commemorated. This article reports a collaboration between the Waterloo200 Committee and Tom Wheeley, history teacher, to create a lesson sequence analysing the...

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