Using enquiry questions

Many history departments use enquiry questions as an essential device for structuring their planning. Enquiries – built on the basis of genuine, worthwhile historical questions that the students are ultimately required to answer – often form the basic units within schemes of work, with each enquiry lasting several lessons/weeks. A good question will make clear not only the substantive focus of the enquiry but also the particular second-order or disciplinary concept that the students are dealing with. This approach allows teachers to plan effectively across key stages, clearly identifying where and when they are focusing on particular concepts, making it easier to plan for progression; ensuring, for example, that a Year 9 enquiry question about similarity and difference across the British Empire builds on and extends the analytical framework used to explore similarity and difference in a Year 8 enquiry about the Mughal Empire.  The materials in this section include detailed examples of individual schemes of work built around different kinds of enquiry questions, along with examples of larger curriculum plans conceived of in terms of a series of well-designed enquiry questions. Read more

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  • Film: What's the wisdom on...Enquiry questions (Part 2)

    Article

    We’ve been talking to our secondary school members and we know how difficult life is for teachers in the current circumstances. We also understand your need to stay in touch as a history department and continue those developmental discussions you would normally be having, so we thought we’d lend a...

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  • Film: What's the wisdom on...Enquiry questions (Part 1)

    Article

    We’ve been talking to our secondary school members and we know how difficult life is for teachers in the current circumstances. We also understand your need to stay in touch as a history department and continue those developmental discussions you would normally be having, so we thought we’d lend a...

    Click to view
  • What’s the wisdom on… enquiry questions

    Article

    What's the Wisdom On... is a short guide providing new history teachers with an overview of the ‘story so far’ of practice-based professional thinking about a particular aspect of history teaching. It draws on tried and tested approaches arising from teachers with years of experimenting, researching, practising, writing and debating their...

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  • Modelling the discipline

    Article

    David Hibbert and Zaiba Patel decided to work together after becoming concerned that school history curricula might not enable students to interrogate popular British mythologising about World War II. Building on these pre-existing concerns, their collaboration with the historian Yasmin Khan yielded an Interpretations enquiry which asked students to consider...

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  • Anatomy of enquiry: deconstructing an approach to history curriculum planning

    Article

    It is almost 20 years since Michael Riley first invited Key Stage 3 history teachers to ‘choose and plant’ their enquiry questions. Many members of the history education community have taken up that invitation, making use of overarching enquiry questions to structure students’ learning. But what is meant by enquiry...

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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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  • Making rigour a departmental reality

    Article

    Faced with the introduction of a two-year key stage and a new whole-school assessment policy, Rachel Arscott and Tom Hinks decided to make a virtue out of necessity and reconsider their whole approach to planning, teaching and assessment at Key Stage 3. In this article they give an account of...

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  • Shaping the debate

    Article

    As history departments in England prepare for the introduction of new GCSE specifications, the question of how to prepare students to succeed in the examination while also ensuring that they are taught rigorous history remains as relevant as ever. Faced with preparing students to answer a question that seemingly precluded...

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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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  • Interpreting Agincourt: KS3 Scheme of Work

    Article

    2015 was a year of anniversaries. As part of our funded commemoration projects surrounding the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, we have commissioned this scheme of work looking at interpretations of the battle and period, particularly aimed at pupils in Key Stage Three. It comes with a complete...

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  • Exploring big overviews through local depth

    Article

    Exploring big overviews through local depth Rachel Foster and Kath Goudie's search for a more rigorous and interesting way of teaching Year 7 the Norman Conquest was initially driven by a desire to incorporate local history in a more meaningful way in their Key Stage 3 schemes of work. This...

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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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  • Assessment after levels

    Article

    Ten years ago, two heads of department in contrasting schools presented a powerfully-argued case for resisting the use of level descriptions within their assessment regimes. Influenced both by research into the nature of children's historical thinking and by principles of assessment for learning, Sally Burnham and Geraint Brown argued that...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 153: Good Enquiry Questions

    Article

    This page is for those new to the published writings of history teachers. Every problem you wrestle with, other teachers have wrestled with too. Quick fixes don't exist. But if you discover others' writing, you'll soon find - and want to join - something better: an international conversation in which...

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  • Knowledge and the Draft NC

    Article

    Silk purse from a sow's ear? Why knowledge matters and why the draft History NC will not improve it Katie Hall and Christine Counsell attempt to construct a Key Stage 3 scheme of work out of the draft National Curriculum for history that was released for consultation in England in...

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  • Designing an enquiry in a challenging setting

    Article

    Bridging the divide with a question and a kaleidoscope: designing an enquiry in a challenging settingThe Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) is a Cyprus-based organization that works to foster dialogue among history teachers and other educators across the divide in Cyprus. In one of their UN-funded projects, ADHR members...

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  • '...trying to count the stars': using the story of Bergen-Belsen to teach the Holocaust

    Article

    Maria Osowiecki's search for the right questions to frame her students' study of the Holocaust was driven initially by the proximity of her school to the site of Bergen-Belsen, and the particular interests and concerns of her students as members of British Forces families. But, as this article richly demonstrates,...

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  • Cunning Plan 144: promoting independent student enquiry

    Article

    Getting students to generate their own questions can seem like a formidable challenge, even for experienced teachers with extensive subject knowledge developed over years of teaching. Imagine how much more alarming it appeared to a student-teacher being encouraged to take risks by handing more responsibility to the students. Could it...

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  • Assessment for Learning

    Article

    Owning their learning: using ‘Assessment for Learning' to help students assume responsibility for planning, (some) teaching and evaluationRobin Conway's interest in student led enquiry derived from a concern to encourage his students to take much more responsibility for their own learning. Here he explains how his department gradually learned to entrust...

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  • Pupil-led historical enquiry: what might this actually be?

    Article

    The current National Curriculum for history requires pupils to ‘identify and investigate specific historical questions, making and testing hypotheses for themselves'. While Kate Hammond relished the encouragement that this gave to her pupils to engage in the process of historical enquiry, she was keen to develop a much clearer sense...

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