Using historical scholarship

There is a long tradition of history teachers using historical scholarship whether to shape their enquiry questions using real questions that academic historians pursued, to gain new knowledge for enriching lessons or simply to keep inspiring the passion that fired their first love of history so that they can display it to pupils in the classroom itself.   A tradition within this is the curriculum component ‘Interpretations’ - a sustained fixture of England’s national curriculum for history since 1991 which has spawned its own tradition of shared practice, research and debate.  If you want to find out specifically about ‘Interpretations of history’, where there will be much reference to historical scholarship, go to InterpretationsRead more

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  • What’s the wisdom on… Evidence and sources

    Article

    The purpose of this guide. 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,...

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  • Teaching Year 9 to take on the challenge of structure in narrative

    Article

    Reflecting on challenges that had surfaced in their own and others’ efforts to get pupils to write historical narratives, Rachel Foster and Kath Goudie went back to the drawing board to consider the disciplinary purposes of narrative. They used both historical scholarship and theoretical works by historians on narrative construction....

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  • Making reading routine

    Article

    Inspired by the growing number of history teachers who have sought to introduce younger pupils to academic historical scholarship in the classroom, Tim Jenner wanted to bring about his own reading revolution at Key Stage 3. But rather than simply develop one-off lessons or enquiries based on scholarship his goal...

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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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  • Polychronicon 170: The Becket Dispute

    Article

    ‘The Becket Dispute’ (or ‘Controversy’) refers to the quarrel between Henry II and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, which dominated English ecclesiastical politics in the 1160s. It was a conflict with multiple dimensions: a clash of Church and State; a prolonged struggle between two prominent individuals; a close friendship turned...

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  • ‘This extract is no good, Miss!’

    Article

    Frustrated that her A-level students were being overly dismissive when asked to judge the convincingness of academic historians’ arguments, Paula Worth drew on previous history-teacher research and theories of history for inspiration. After noting that her students would unjustly reject esteemed historians’ accounts for lack of comprehensiveness, Worth explains here...

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  • Reading? What reading?

    Article

    Discussions with sixth-form students about reading led Carolyn Massey and Paul Wiggin to start a sixth-formreading group. They describe here the series of themed sessions that they planned, and the student discussion and reflections that resulted. Listening to their students discuss their reading led Massey and  Wiggin to reflect on what is meant by ‘reading around’ the subject, and its role in students’ intellectual...

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  • Triumphs Show 167: Keeping the 1960s complicated

    Article

    During her PGCE year, it became evident to Rachel Coleman just how much pupils struggled with the complicated nature of history. They were troubled in particular by the lack of definitive answers, by the range of perspectives that might be held at the time of a particular event or development...

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  • Cunning Plan 167: teaching the industrial revolution

    Article

    ‘Disastrous and terrible.’ For Arnold Toynbee, the historian who gave us the phrase ‘industrial revolution’, these three words sum up the period of dramatic technological change that took place in Britain across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We may not habitually use Toynbee’s description in the classroom, but it is...

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  • Are historical thinking skills important to history teachers?

    Article

    International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research IJHLTR, Volume 14, Number 2 – Spring/Summer 2017 ISSN: 14472-9474 Abstract This article presents some findings of a qualitative interview study with 42 Austrian history teachers, conducted in the framework of an on-going three-year research project (2015–2018) funded by the Austrian Science Fund. The study...

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  • Polychronicon 164: The End of the Cold War

    Article

    A quarter-century on from 1989-91, with a large amount of archive and media material available, these epic years are ripe for historical analysis. Yet their proximity to our time also throws up challenging questions about the practice of ‘contemporary history’, and the complexity of events raises larger issues about how...

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  • Historical scholarship and feedback

    Article

    In her introduction to this piece, Carolyn Massey describes history teachers as professionals who pride themselves on ‘a sophisticated understanding of change and continuity’. How often, though, do we bemoan change when it comes, as it so often has recently? Massey’s article provides an example of how to embrace change,...

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  • Effective essay introductions

    Article

    Struck by the dullness of some of her students’ essay introductions, Paula Worth reflected on the fact that she had never focused specifically on introductions. After surveying existing work by history teachers on essay structure in general and introductions in particular, she turns to the work of historians. Drawing on...

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  • Triumphs Show 164: interpretations at A Level

    Article

    Julia Huber and Katherine Turner found that their A-level students struggled to identify the line of argument in a passage of historical scholarship, an essential prerequisite for answering their coursework question. They devised an activity that helped students to unpick and visually contrast historians’ interpretations of the relative importance 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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  • Does the grammatical ‘release the conceptual’?

    Article

    Jim Carroll noticed basic literacy errors in his Year 13s’ writing, but on closer examination decided that these were not best addressed purely as literacy issues. Through an intervention based on clauses, Carroll managed to enable his students to write better, but he did this by teasing out principles of...

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  • Polychronicon 163: Europe: the longest debate

    Article

    On 23 June, electors in the United Kingdom will vote on whether they wish to remain part of the European Union. The passionate debate around the question has seen the spectre of Hitler and the example of Churchill invoked, with varying  plausibility, by both sides. It has also drawn on the...

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  • Promoting rigorous historical scholarship

    Article

    The history department at Cottenham Village College has one more member than you might expect. Ruth Brown is a teaching assistant (TA) and one of the longest-standingmembers of the department, and this article is about how her work has an impact on specific pupils, whole classes and teachers. The key...

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  • Move Me On 162: Reading

    Article

    This issue’s problem: James Connolly is finding it difficult to judge how much or what kind of reading he should expect of his students. James Connolly, an eager and knowledgeable historian, has frequently struggled to pitch things appropriately for students. This applies particularly to his expectations of their reading, but also...

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  • Year 8 and interpretations of the First World War

    Article

    Dan Smith was concerned that his pupils were drawing on over-simplified generalisations about different periods of the past when they were considering why interpretations change over time. This led him to consider how pupils’ contextual knowledge and chronological fluency might be used more explicitly in order to avoid weak generalisations...

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