One of our YorkClio team, Hugh Richards, was asked by SLT to define the subject specific pedagogy of History in 5 features. Definitely a ‘phone a friend(s)’ moment! This has really started us thinking – hard! We have pasted below our working thoughts after 36 hours batting it about. We’d love to get a wider discussion going on about this. There is comment function on this blog page. Or tweet with #historyhydra. Please chip in!
History Pedagogy as Five Features – first stab at the Hydra.
Note this was a collaborative effort with some other Heads of History across the city – Helen Snelson at the Mount/University of York and Ruth Lingard at Millthorpe.
Preface: The nature of school history is that there is considerable overlap with academic history. They are not the same, but it is fair to say that there is more overlap than is the case with many/most other school subjects.
1) Making learning enquiry based: usually the teacher will define the enquiry. It should be framed as a question over which there is genuine historical debate. To be successful it will require students to fully engage with the relevant narratives and with the relevant disciplinary and substantive concepts. It is sometimes possible and desirable at KS3 for students to define the enquiry themselves (more in the manner of university level of history.) (In Denmark this is what they do at their equivalent of history A-level!) Crucially, enquiries will end with clear, conditional conclusions or judgements about the past (see point 4).
2) Presenting narratives of the past: this is about what is generally accepted to be known about ‘what happened’ and we underestimate the need for contextual knowledge at our peril. It is the teacher role to make clear champion, and to model, the status of a narrative. That is, to use language of certainty / uncertainty, as defined by the fragmentary/contested nature of the evidence on which it is based.
3) Conceptual learning: to teach students so that they can define disciplinary and substantive concepts as tools to unpick and explain the historical narrative. To teach them how to engage with these concepts in the manner of a historian, for example to test hypotheses, organise thoughts and weigh up evidence – all in relation to the historical narrative.
4) Conditional conclusions: to teach in a way that makes it clear that all conclusions made by historians are open to evidence-based debate. The debate is ongoing. This links back to 1) that the enquiries in school should be areas of genuine historical debate. It also requires history teachers to continue to be engaged in this debate by constantly updating their subject knowledge. At the higher levels of the school curriculum this involves engagement with the ‘multi-voicedness’ of the past and the nature of historical truth.
5) Historical communication: to teach the accepted vocabulary, register, structures and modes used by historians to communicate. This should enable students to feel confident in expressing their own evidence-based views in relation to historical debate.
Endnote: This assumes entitlement and equity – the aspiration that all should be given the opportunity to be able to go as far as they wish with academic learning about the past. Additionally, there is a huge contribution of history as a subject to citizens who are happy and fulfilled in a thriving multi-perspective democracy.
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