any one class. If the fourth-grade teacher understands the learning plans of the sixth-grade teacher, it becomes possible to introduce some ideas earlier for students who may benefit. It may also be important for the sixth-grade teacher to be able to reinforce understandings that have been taught earlier but are shaky for some students.
The third key finding of How People Learn—that “a metacognitive approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them”—is also an important aspect of the planning process. The last column on the planning grids in Box 3A-2 lists the metacognitive questions adopted for these units of work. It is clear that these questions are closely related to the kinds of understandings we are trying to develop in students and can help raise their consciousness of what is at issue when using evidence. Questions of this kind increase students’ awareness of the knowledge and understanding they have, and enable them to see that some answers to questions actually solve problems while other answers do not. This kind of awareness helps students recognize that answers provided by other students are relevant to the problems they themselves faced in their attempts at answers. Planning of the kind exemplified here that links questions to key second-order concepts can help teachers develop these questions into full-fledged metacognitive strategies. Moreover, metacognitive questions have additional advantages. Students’ use of such questions allows their teachers to gain insight into their understanding and their misconceptions and thereby take advantage of learning opportunities that arise in the classroom, and to think about the kinds of adjustments that will be necessary in day-to-day planning to support individual learning needs, as well as longer-term goals.
The planning principles discussed here for fourth and sixth grades with respect to evidence would, of course, need to be extended to other second-order concepts and to other grades to enable the formulation of a long-term plan for a school history curriculum. These principles provide a structure for systematically revisiting ideas that inform all the history we want our students to learn, regardless of the topic. Such ideas are at the heart of history. They introduce students to the possibility of treating accounts of particular passages of the past as better or worse, more or less valid, in a rational way. History such as this does not succumb to vicious relativism on the one hand or to fundamentalism on the other. Rather, it exemplifies the central values of an open society.