Significance

Equipping students to make well-reasoned judgements about the historical significance of past events is one way of alerting them to the value and purpose of studying the past. But teaching about this disciplinary concept also involves developing young people’s understanding that historical significance is not an enduring or unchanging characteristic of any particular event. It is a contingent quality that depends on the perspective from which that event is subsequently viewed. While judgements of significance are likely to include consideration of the depth and extent of any immediate consequences arising from the event in question, they will also be based on the endurance of those consequences as well as on subsequent developments and on the concerns of those who are making the judgement. The resources in this section explore the range of criteria that students might be encouraged to use in ascribing significance to events and set out a variety of productive strategies that teachers have used to help students work with others’ criteria as well as formulating, justifying and deploying their own.

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  • Myths and Monty Python: using the witch-hunts to introduce students to significance

    Article

    In this article Kerry Apps introduces students to the significance of the witch-hunts in the modern era, at the time when they occurred, and in the middle of the eighteenth century. She presents her rationale for choosing the witch-hunts as a focus for the study of significance, and shows how her thinking about her teaching has evolved through her evaluation of her students’...

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  • Anything but brief: Year 8 students encounter the longue durée

    Article

    Inspired by The History Manifesto, Suzanne Powell describes in this article her rationale for expanding her students’ horizons by asking them to think about change, similarity and difference on a grand scale. She sets ‘big history’ into its curricular context, and shows the way in which her students could, and...

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  • Active remembrance

    Article

    A year after the end of the First World War, George V stated: "I believe that my people in every part of the Empire fervently wish to perpetuate the memory of the Great Deliverance and those who laid down their lives to achieve it." From that moment, the idea of large-scale remembrance...

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  • Of the many significant things that have ever happened, what should we teach?

    Article

    There are three basic strands to our lessons. How should we teach? What skills should we enable our students to build? What content should we use to deliver those skills? In this article Tony McConnell, who has been re-designing the curriculum in his school in response to a changed examination regimen, considers the issue of subject...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 163: Historical significance

    Article

    Historical significance first appeared in England’s National Curriculum for history in 1995. It entered the assessment framework (Level Descriptions) in 2008. In 2014, it became part of the History NC ‘Aims’. One thing never changes, however: it is hard. But history teachers have written a great deal about historical significance...

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  • Cunning Plan 161: Magna Carta's legacy

    Article

    Both Dawson and Hayes have recently written Cunning Plans that show how exciting Magna Carta is. So why not stop there? Bring the barons to life with a flare of Dawson and send Magna Carta flying across the continent with just a hint of Hayes. Hey, from the same edition,...

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  • Building meaningful models of progression

    Article

    Setting us free? Building meaningful models of progression for a ‘post-levels' world Alex Ford was thrilled by the prospect of freedom offered to history departments in England by the abolition of level descriptions within the National Curriculum. After analysing the range of competing purposes that the level  descriptions were previously...

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  • Cunning Plan 155: interpreting WW1 events

    Article

    Enquiry Question: What's worth knowing about the First World War? At the end of our scheme of work on the First World War, I asked myself how I might encourage my Year 9 pupils to reflect on the historical significance of the events we had studied. I was particularly interested...

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  • Triumphs Show 150.2: Year 13 game for reaching substantiated judgements

    Article

    Year 13 play a competitive game to help them arrive at strong and substantiated judgements. Year 13 were in the library again, sinking under tomes of weighty works on the German Reformation. James was feverishly rifling through a book on the ‘Reformation World' for something (anything!) to do with Luther's...

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  • Where are we? The place of women in history curricula

    Article

    Joanne Pearson reflects on her experiences as a history teacher and teacher educator, considering the ways in which she has seen women represented in the history curricula of different schools in England. She makes the case that greater attention needs to be paid by history teachers to the criteria against...

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  • Using family history to provoke rigorous enquiry

    Article

    ‘My grandfather slammed the door in Winston Churchill's face!' Using family history to provoke rigorous enquiryThe idea of using ‘little stories' to illuminate the ‘big pictures' of the past was creatively explored in Teaching History 107, which offered teachers a wealth of detailed vignettes with which to kindle young people's...

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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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  • Triumphs Show 144: Active learning to engage ‘challenging students'

    Article

    Active learning to engage and challenge ‘challenging students' Historical significance may have been the ‘forgotten element' in 2002 when Rob Phillips first offered us the acronym ‘GREAT', but it has been seized upon with enthusiasm by the history education community. Christine Counsell's now famous five ‘R's (remarkable, remembered, resonant, resulting...

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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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  • Triumphs Show 141: using family photos to bring the diversity of Jewish lives to life

    Article

    Headteachers, Hungarians and hats: using family photos to bring the diversity of Jewish lives to life It is 9.35am on a wet Tuesday. As the rain falls outside, fingers twitch in a Y ear 9 history classroom. The instruction is given and 28 pairs of hands spring into action, rifling...

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  • Berlin and the Holocaust: a sense of place?

    Article

    As more and more schools take students on visits to locations associated with the history of the Holocaust, history teachers have to find ways to make these places historically meaningful for their students. David Waters shows here how he introduced his students to the multiple narratives associated with the history...

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  • Using 1980s popular music to explore historical significance

    Article

    ‘We didn't start the fire': using 1980s popular music to explore historical significance by stealth.Scott Allsop helped his students to uncover the implicit criteria informing someone else's attribution of historical significance to past events. That ‘someone else' was Billy Joel whose 1989 song became the focus for deconstructive analysis. Through...

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  • Significance

    Article

    Historical Significance A selection of useful Teaching History Articles on 'Significance' and are highly recommended reading to anyone who wants to get to grips with this key concept:   1. Kate Hammond: From horror to history: teaching pupils to reflect on significance. Teaching History 104 In this detailed account of the first stages...

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  • Nutshell

    Article

    What’s this ‘historical significance’ in the new Key Stage 3 Programme of Study? The damn thing has even crept into the Attainment Target. Does this mean I’ve actually got to teach it? Ah! It’s caught up with you at last. Or, rather, the 2008 National Curriculum has caught up with...

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  • What they think they know: the impact of pupils' preconceptions on their understanding of historical significance

    Article

    Robin Conway suspected that his students’ concepts of the significance of different aspects of historical periods was affected by the preconceptions that they brought to his lessons. These preconceptions were leading his students into making unhistorical judgments, without any real understanding on their part of what had affected their thinking....

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