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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  • 'Isn't the trigger the thing that sets the rest of it on fire?'

    Article

    Causation maps: emphasising chronology in causation exercises

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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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  • Being ambitious with the causes of the First World War: interrogating inevitability

    Article

    Gary Howells asks hard questions about typical teaching and assessment of historical causation at Key Stage 3. Popular activities that may be helpful in addressing particular learning areas, or in teaching pupils to use the terminology of causation, are not in themselves evidence of having acquired a ‘skill'. Howells invites...

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  • Building an overview of the historic roots of antisemitism

    Article

    ‘But I still don't get why the Jews': using cause and change to answer pupils' demand for an overview of antisemitism Research by the Centre for Holocaust Education has suggested that students need and want more help with building an overview of the historical roots of antisemitism and that they...

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  • Camels, diamonds and counterfactuals: a model for teaching causal reasoning

    Article

    In the last edition of Teaching History, Arthur Chapman described how he uses ICT to develop sixth form students’ conceptual understanding of interpretations, significance and change. In this article, he turns his attention to causal reasoning and analysis. Drawing on the work of historians such as Evans and Carr, he...

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  • Competition and counterfactuals without confusion

    Article

    Year 10 play a game about the fall of the Tsarist empire to improve their causal reasoningPaula Worth was searching not only for a rigorous question, capable of engendering genuine debate, but also for an engaging and enjoyable activity that would secure GCSE students' substantive knowledge. The answer - or...

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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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  • Counterfactual Reasoning: Comparing British and French History

    Article

    Fog over channel; continent accessible? Year 8 use counterfactual reasoning to explore place and social upheaval in eighteenth-century France and Britain. Two linked motivations inspired Ellen Buxton's research study: she wanted pupils to make connections between British and French history and she wanted to explore the potential of counter-factual reasoning...

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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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  • Does scaffolding make them fall? Reflecting on strategies for developing causal argument in Years 8 and 11

    Article

    Jennifer Evans and Gemma Pate, history teachers in two Essex schools, had noticed that sometimes a writing frame did the opposite of what was intended. Sometimes a card sort fostered rich discussion and ownership; sometimes it led the students down a reductive rather than mind-opening path. Sometimes modelling of paragraphs...

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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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  • Does the linguistic release the conceptual? Helping Year 10 to improve their casual reasoning

    Article

    Does new vocabulary help students to express existing ideas for which they do not yet have words or does it actually give them new ideas which they did not previously hold? James Woodcock asks whether offering students new vocabulary can give them new ideas, and whether this can enhance their...

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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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  • 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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  • Historical Causation: Is One Thing More Important Than Another?

    Article

    WHAT COLOUR ARE THE UNICORNS?Professor Steve Rigby, recently retired from the University of Manchester, delivered ‘Historical Causation: Is One Thing More Important Than Another?' to the Bolton Branch of the Historical Association on 29th November 2010.  His lecture gives a fascinating introduction to the philosophy of historical causation, looking at...

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  • Holistic assessment through speaking and listening: an experiment with causal reasoning and evidential thinking in Year 8

    Article

    Giles Fullard and Kate Dacey wanted to enrich their department's planning for progression across Key Stage 3 with a strong sequence of activities fostering argument. They wanted an opportunity for students to draw together their prior (Year 7 and early Year 8) learning within causal reasoning and evidential thinking, with...

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  • Illuminating the shadow: making progress happen in casual thinking through speaking and listening

    Article

    Here is another breath of fresh air from the Thomas Tallis history department. In TH 103, Head of Department Tony Hier showed how he developed a rigorous framework for implementing government initiatives and improving departmental professional discourse at the same time. This time, from history teacher Vaughan Clark, we get...

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  • Improving Year 12's extended writing

    Article

    From Muddleton Manor to Clarity Cathedral: improving Year 12's extended writing through an enhanced sense of the reader Mary Brown recognised that her A-level students were finding extended writing difficult, particularly in terms of guiding the reader through the argument with appropriate ‘signposting'. To help her students manage this, Brown...

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  • Investigating students' prior understandings of the Holocaust

    Article

    The edge of knowing: investigating students' prior understandings of the HolocaustStudents make sense of new learning on the basis of their prior understandings: we cannot move our students' thinking on unless we understand what they already know. In this article, Edwards and O'Dowd report how they set out to scope...

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  • Is any explanation better than none?

    Article

    Over-determined narratives, senseless agencies and one-way streets in students' learning about cause and consequence in history What do we know about progression in historical understanding? In Teaching History 113, Lee and Shemilt discussed what progression models can and cannot do to help us think about measuring and developing pupils' understanding...

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