Acquainted or intimate? Background knowledge and subsequent learning

Teaching History journal article

By Heather Fearn, published 20th December 2018

Towards identifying when and how background knowledge is used in subsequent learning

Heather Fearn was intrigued by the factors that might have led her higher-performing students to talk in historically mature ways about unseen sources without any prior knowledge of the topic in hand. She began to wonder if what she was hearing was not best accounted for by a content-free disciplinary aptitude, but rather that it might be the effects of secure substantive knowledge from other topics.

Building on the work of Hammond in Teaching History 157, Fearn designed a research study using the Oxford History Aptitude Test (HAT) to enable her to characterise the kinds of substantive knowledge that might be efficacious in fostering performance in unfamiliar historical territory.

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