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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  • 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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  • Key Concepts at Key Stage 3

    Multipage Article

    The key concepts can be divided into three types:  change and continuity; cause and consequence; diversity; and significance, which inform the types of questions historians ask about past events, people and situations, and which are sometimes called second-order concepts; chronological understanding, which provides a framework for comprehending the past; interpretations...

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  • Marr: magpie or marsh harrier?

    Article

    The quest for the common characteristics of the genus ‘historian' with 16- to 19-year-olds Diana Laffin writes about historical language and explores how understanding different historians' use of language can help sixth form students refine and deepen both their understanding of the discipline of history and their abilities to practise...

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  • Move Me On 92: Having problems teaching causation

    Article

    This Issue's Problem: Melville Miles, student history teacher, is in Term 3 of his PGCE year. Melville has taught a number of excellent lessons in which he enabled pupils to reach high levels of historical understanding. His diagnostic assessment of pupils' work is unusually sophisticated for a PGCE student. Melville's...

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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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  • Mussolini's missing marbles: simulating history at GCSE

    Article

    Arthur Chapman and James Woodcock have collaborated before: Woodcock extended Chapman’s familiar casual metaphor of the final straw breaking a poor abused camel’s back. Here, they collaborate more explicitly to suggest a means of teaching students to produce adequately nuanced historical explanation. Their two central ideas are to produce a...

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  • Nazi perpetrators in Holocaust education

    Article

    The Holocaust is often framed, in textbooks and exam syllabi, from a perpetrator perspective as a narrative of Nazi policy. We are offered a different orientation here. Interrogating and understanding the Holocaust involves understanding why the people who perpetrated the Holocaust did the things that they did. As Wolf Kaiser...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 149: Getting pupils to argue about causes

    Article

    Every problem you're wrestling with in the history classroom, other history teachers have wrestled with too. This page is for all those new to the published writings of history teachers in Teaching History. It shows how to make a start in understanding how others have explored and discussed common and...

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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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  • Scott's 5-stage model for progression in conceptual understanding of causation

    Article

    The following model examines progression in learning within a particular domain - cause and consequence.  The Teaching History Research Group produced a series of stage descriptions which they tell us were based on a mixture of "personal experience, observation in many schools, discussions with teacher and research findings". It is...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Thematic or sequential analysis in causal explanations

    Article

    Thematic or sequential analysis in causal explanations? Investigating the kinds of historical understanding that Year 8 and Year 10 demonstrate in their efforts to construct narrativesStruck by what he saw as the complexity, artistry and cognitive achievement of historians' narrative accounts, Robin Kemp decided to explore ways of teaching his...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Waking up to complexity

    Article

    Waking up to complexity: using Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers to challenge over-determined causal explanations Teaching student to construct causal argument is a staple of history teaching and, in this year, questions about the causes of the First World War are particularly pertinent and once again the public eye. Claire Holliss,...

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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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