Professional wrestling in the history department: a case study in planning the teaching of the British Empire at key stage 3


By Michael Riley and Jamie Byrom, published 8th December 2008

Three years ago (TH 99, Curriculum Planning Edition), Michael Riley illustrated ways in which history departments could exploit the increased flexibility of the revised National Curriculum. He showed that precisely-worded enquiry questions, positioned thoughtfully across the Key Stage, help to ensure progression, challenge and coherence. His picturesque image for this careful and creative process was that of a garden. Since then, many a history department has been planting a new enquiry here and pruning an old one there. Working alongside Jamie Byrom, he now returns to this theme. The imagery has changed rather alarmingly, however, and they now see themselves - and all classroom history teachers - as professional wrestlers. Together they examine some of the issues with which history departments must engage if medium-term plans and lesson activities are to build broad and coherent knowledge. Michael Riley and Jamie Byrom have been wrestling with the British Empire but the principles apply to all areas of study. This article is as much about a process as a product. The authors argue that facing up to the problematic nature of planning is integral to effective history teaching. No really good history teacher can just follow a textbook, a pre-prepared scheme or an approved set of lesson plans. This would be to stop engaging with the very historical questions with which we want pupils to engage, and to stop engaging with the learning challenges that particular pupils might need in order to be stretched. Every history teacher must wrestle; it is part of being a history teacher.

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