‘Man, people in the past were indeed stupid’

Teaching History journal article

Tim Huijgen and Paul Holthuis, last updated: 26th September 2018

Using a three-stage framework to promote historical contextualisation

In this article, which is based on Huijgen’s PhD dissertation Balancing between the past and the present, Tim Huijgen and Paul Holthuis present the results of an experimental method of teaching 14–16-year-old students to contextualise their historical studies in a different way. In the four lessons described, students’ initial reactions to aspects of the 1950s Cold War were challenged by explicitly teaching them to build historical context, and then to revisit their initial impressions of what, for example, it might have been like to have been an American schoolchild being asked to ‘duck and cover’. The article also provides a wider argument for the importance of historical context both as something for students to be taught to create and as a potential barrier in historical learning. This is part of a wider project, and resources are provided to show how this might be done with a larger range of topics.

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