Making knowledge secure

While much has been written about balancing and blending types of substantive content, much less has been written about ways of ensuring that pupils do actually gain the knowledge that such planning intended them to have. On the other hand, this issue can surface indirectly in articles on planning, especially where the focus is on how one layer of knowledge can be used to accelerate assimilation of another.  For example, articles on drama are often efforts to embed a story or make it memorable.  Articles arguing that it’s a good idea to ‘teach this kind of thing before that kind of thing’ are effectively showing how one kind of knowledge manifests itself in another context. So there is always more on making knowledge secure than meets the eye! Also, articles why secure knowledge matters (e.g. its effects on wider historical learning) often overlap with articles how to make that knowledge secure in the first place. So if you are looking for what has been written about one, you are also likely to find it in the other. Read more

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  • Cunning Plan 179: using TV producers’ techniques to make the most effective use of retrieval practice

    Article

    Last year I was working with colleagues on a project examining Rosenshine’s principle of beginning lessons with a short review of previous learning.1 At the same time I was working with a history trainee who had been using recall quizzes as a starter with GCSE students. Following a lesson observation,...

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  • ‘I need to know…’: creating the conditions that make students want knowledge

    Article

    Chloe Bateman recognised the value to her Key Stage 3 pupils of developing rich subject knowledge, but wanted to find a way of encouraging them to value that knowledge for themselves. In this article she explains how she provided that inspiration by setting her Year 7 class the challenge of...

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  • Trampolines and Springboards

    Article

    Frustrated by his pupils’ tendency to compartmentalise source analysis into two discrete parts of ‘source’ and ‘own knowledge’, Jonathan Sellin reflected that his use of scaffolds might be to blame. Inspired by recent work by teacher-researchers Hammond and King on the importance of secure substantive knowledge in the area of...

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  • From road map to thought map: helping students theorise the nature of change

    Article

    Warren Valentine was dissatisfied with his Year 7 students’ accounts of change across the Tudor period. Fixated with Henry VIII’s wives, they failed to reflect on or analyse the bigger picture of the whole Tudor narrative. In order to overcome this problem, his department created a ‘thought-map’ exercise in which...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 167: Confidence with substantive knowledge

    Article

    This page is for those new to the published writings of history teachers. Each problem you wrestle with, other teachers have wrestled with too...   History is a complex enterprise. In order to produce sophisticated arguments, pupils need firm foundations. One foundation is knowledge of the argumentative structures that historians...

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  • Move Me On 167: Frames of reference

    Article

    This feature is designed to build critical, informed debate about the character of teacher training, teacher education and professional development. This issue’s problem: Eleanor Franks doesn’t really understand her students’ frames of reference and the difficulties that many of them have in making sense of the particular historical phenomena she is teaching them about. Eleanor Franks,...

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  • Thinking makes it so: cognitive psychology and history teaching

    Article

    What, exactly, is learned knowledge - and why does it matter in history teaching? Michael Fordham seeks to use the general tenets of cognitive psychology to inform the debate about how history teachers might get the best from their students, in particular in considering the role of memory. Fordham surveys the latest research concerning memory while also arguing that remembering does matter in history...

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  • Cunning Plan 166: developing an enquiry on the First Crusade

    Article

    "What shall I say next? We were all indeed huddled together like sheep in a fold, trembling and frightened, surrounded on all sides by enemies so that we could not turn in any direction. It was clear to us that this had happened because of our sins. A great clamour rose to the sky, not...

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  • Low-stakes testing

    Article

    The emphasis on the power of secure substantive knowledge reflected in recent curriculum reforms has prompted considerable interest in strategies to help students retain and deploy such knowledge effectively. One strategy that has been strongly endorsed by some cognitive psychologists is regular testing; an idea that Nick Dennis set out...

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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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  • 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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  • The Power of Context: using a visual source

    Article

    Drawing on her wealth of experience and expertise in using visual sources in the classroom, in this article Jane Card explores how a single painting, a portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, might form the basis for a sequence of lessons. Arguing that although highly...

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  • Engaging Year 9 students in party politics

    Article

    Sarah Black wanted to remedy Year 9's lack of knowledge about nineteenth-century politics. With just five lessons to work with, she decided to devise a sequence on Gladstone and Disraeli, shaping the sequence with an enquiry question that invited argument about change and continuity. Black analyses the status and function of different layers of knowledge within her sequence, evaluates the interaction...

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  • Enabling Year 7 to write essays on Magna Carta

    Article

    Setting out to teach Magna Carta to the full attainment range in Year 7, Mark King decided to choose a question that reflected real scholarly debates and also to ensure that pupils held enough knowledge in long-term memory to be able to think about that question meaningfully. As he gradually prepared his pupils to produce their own causation arguments in response to that question, King was startled by...

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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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  • Developing transferable knowledge at A-level

    Article

    From a compartmentalised to a complicated past: developing transferable knowledge at A-level Students find it difficult to join up the different things they study into a complex account of the past. Examination specifications do not necessarily help with this because of the way in which history is divided up into...

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  • Triumphs Show 158: interactive learning walls and substantive vocabulary

    Article

    Year 10 use an interactive learning wall to cement their understanding of substantive vocabulary It is the first term of their GCSE course and Year 10 are already starting to flag a little. They are enjoying studying the Russian Revolution, but are struggling to remember all the new words they...

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  • Using timelines in assessment

    Article

    Bridging a twenty-year gap in their practice, Elizabeth Carr and Christine Counsell bring out the similarities in their use of timelines in their planning, teaching and assessment. What they also have in common is the fact that their experimentation with timelines as a way of strengthening cumulative knowledge emerged in...

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  • Securing contextual knowledge in year 10

    Article

    Using regular, low-stakes tests to secure pupils' contextual knowledge in Year 10 Lee Donaghy was concerned that his GCSE students' weak contextual knowledge was letting them down. Inspired by a mixture of cognitive science and the arguments of other teachers expressed in various blogs, he decided to tackle the problem...

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  • Building and assessing historical knowledge on three scales

    Article

    The knowledge that ‘flavours' a claim: towards building and assessing historical knowledge on three scales While marking some Year 11 essays, Kate Hammond found her interest caught by significant differences between one kind of strong analysis and another. Some scored high marks but were less convincing. The achievement in these...

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