Evidence

The use of sources within history lessons has consistently been included within the National Curriculum in England and as a specific assessment objective at GCSE and A-level, on the grounds that unless students know how claims about the past are generated and validated within the subject community, they will be poorly equipped to make sense of or to discriminate between conflicting claims about the past. While the use of sources depends on a process of critical evaluation, history teachers and curriculum designers are now very aware of the risks associated with reducing such evaluation to a series of mechanistic formulae in which ‘source work’ is detached from the enquiry process of answering specific and worthwhile questions about the past.  The materials in this section help alert teachers to those risks as well as illuminating important misconceptions that may prevent students from developing a more powerful conception of the nature of historical knowledge The resources here offer a range of practical strategies, rooted in academic and practitioner research, for equipping students to use sources of many different kinds as evidence (rather than merely passing judgment on them). Read more

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  • Cunning Plan 191: diving deep into ‘history from below’ with Year 8

    Article

    Can the ‘subaltern’ speak, Year 8s? When the Indian scholar and literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak asked this question in 1988, she wasn’t asking Year 8s on a Monday morning. What she wanted to explore was whether those marginalised people written out of the archive – ‘the subaltern’ – could...

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  • Decolonising sources: helping Year 9 pupils critically evaluate colonial sources

    Article

    Danielle Donaldson’s history department was already working within a professional culture that sought opportunities for making the history curriculum diverse and representative. Responding to wider debates within and beyond the history education community, however, the department began to ask fresh questions about what it meant to decolonise a curriculum. Donaldson...

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  • Deepening post-16 students' historical engagement with the Holocaust

    Article

    Peter Morgan represents what is best about the reflective practitioner - an experienced teacher of some 15 years' standing, he continues to challenge himself and to seek ways to improve and develop his classroom practice. Deeply influenced by the pedagogy and resources that he encountered on the CPD of the Institute...

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  • Developing awareness of the need to select evidence

    Article

    Let's play Supermarket ‘Evidential' Sweep: developing students' awareness of the need to select evidence Despite having built a sustained focus on historical thinking into their planning for progression across Years 7 to 13, Rachel Foster and Sarah Gadd remained frustrated with stubborn weaknesses in the evidential thinking of students in...

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  • Developing independent learning with Year 7

    Article

    Jaya Carrier’s decision to focus on developing a more independent  approach to learning in history at Key Stage 3 was prompted by concerns about her A-level students. In seeking to establish secure foundations for students’ own historical research, Carrier first examined the assumptions of her colleagues and her students. She...

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  • Dialogue, engagement and generative interaction in the history classroom

    Article

    Michael Bird has a long-standing interest in the power of classroom dialogue, not only as a means of elicting students’ prior knowledge or checking their understanding of new ideas and information, but also as a powerful tool for generating new knowledge through a collective process of meaning-making. In this article, he...

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  • Enquiries to engage Year 7 in medieval anarchy

    Article

    Wrestling with Stephen and Matilda: planning challenging enquiries to engage Year 7 in medieval anarchy McDougall found learning about Stephen and Matilda fascinating, was sure that her pupils would also and designed an enquiry to engage them in ‘the anarchy' of 1139-1153 AD. Pupils enjoyed exploring ‘the anarchy' and learning...

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  • Evidence: Specific examples

    Article

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  • Evidence: Theoretical

    Article

    Getting Year 10 beyond trivial judgements of ‘bias': towards victory in that battle ... Let's play Supermarket ‘Evidential' Sweep: developing students' awareness of the need to select evidence Assessment of students' uses of evidence: shifting the focus from processes to historical reasoning How can students' use of historical evidence be...

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  • Evidential understanding, period knowledge and the development of literacy: a practical approach to 'layers of inference' for Key Stage 3.

    Article

    Claire Riley explains how she developed and improved the ‘layers of inference' diagram-already a popular device since Hilary Cooper's work-as a way of getting pupils fascinated by challenging texts and pictures. Working with the whole ability range in Year 9 she analyses her successes and failures, offering many practical suggestions...

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  • Fifties Britain through the senses: ‘never had it so good’?

    Article

    Maya Stiasny was faced with difficulties familiar to many of us. Her new Year 12 students were struggling to get to grips with a new period of history. They were not interrogating primary sources with sufficient vigour. Her solution, detailed here, was novel. Working on the rich social history of post-war...

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  • Film: What's the wisdom on... Evidence and sources

    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 new and already popular feature in our secondary journal Teaching History and provides the perfect stimulus for a...

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  • Frameworks for linking pupils' evidential understanding with growing skill in structured, written argument: the 'evidence sandwich'

    Article

    History teachers are increasingly good at designing exercises which develop skill in evidence analysis. The ubiquitous ‘source' is invariably analysed for utility and reliability. But how do pupils integrate such understandings with extended written work? How can they be helped to use these understandings in the creation of written argument?...

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  • Gladstone spiritual or Gladstone material? A rationale for using documents at AS and A2

    Article

    Rather than taking a sledgehammer approach to planning for the new AS and A2 courses Gary Howells has used the opportunity to reflect on characteristics of students' historical learning in the post-16 phase. He argues for a much fuller rationale for using documents than mere preparation for exams or coursework....

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  • Historical learning using concept cartoons

    Article

    Although perhaps unfamiliar to the majority of our readers, concept cartoons are not a new educational tool. Christoph Kühberger here lays out his rationale for using this technique, borrowed from science education, in history teaching. Concept cartoons provide a means for pupils to express such difficult historical concepts as the...

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  • Historical scholarship, archaeology and evidence in Year 7

    Article

    The stimulus for this article came from two developmental tasks that Barbara Trapani was set during the course of her initial teacher education programme: planning her first historical enquiry and bringing the work of an historian into the classroom. Trapani chose to tackle the two tasks together, using Susan Whitfield’s...

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  • How can students' use of historical evidence be enhanced?

    Article

    Please note: this article pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum and some content may be outdated. What role does knowledge play in the interpretation of documentary materials? How do history students use what they know? What kind of knowledge really ‘makes the difference' and which ways of using knowledge make the...

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  • How do you construct an historical claim?

    Article

    While preparing her Year 12 students for an International Baccalaureate paper on early Islam, Kirstie Murray became concerned that students' weaknesses in making claims would be particularly exposed by the challenging complexity of this topic's source record and its contested historiography. Drawing on the practice of other history teachers, especially...

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  • Information and Evidence In a Nutshell

    Article

    Nutshell, what's the National Curriculum Attainment Target on about when it contrasts "information" and "evidence"? Aren't they the same thing? They aren't really things. The contrast is between ways of thinking about knowledge rather than between things. Pardon me? One way of talking about knowledge involves ‘looking things up': we...

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  • Inverting the telescope: investigating sources from a different perspective

    Article

    As historians, we are dependent on evidence, which comes in many varieties. Rosalind Stirzaker here introduces a project which she ran two years ago to encourage her students to think about artefacts in a different way. They have examined randomly preserved artefacts such as those of Pompeii, and sets of...

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