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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Part I HISTORY
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom 2 Putting Principles into Practice: Understanding History Peter J. Lee A major principle emerging from the work on How People Learn is that students do not come to their classrooms empty-handed. They bring with them ideas based on their own experience of how the world works and how people are likely to behave. Such ideas can be helpful to history teachers, but they can also create problems because ideas that work well in the everyday world are not always applicable to the study of history. The very fact that we are dealing with the past makes it easy for misconceptions to arise (soldiers and farmers are not the same now as in the seventeenth century, and “liberty” did not have the same meaning for people then as it does today). But problems with everyday ideas can go deeper. Students also have ideas about how we know about the past. If they believe, for example, that we can know nothing unless we were there to see it, they will have difficulty seeing how history is possible at all. They will think that because we cannot go back in time and see what happened, historians must just be guessing or, worse, making it up. If, as teachers, we do not know what ideas our students are working with, we cannot address such misconceptions. Even when we think we are making a difference, students may simply be assimilating what we say into their existing preconceptions. Another principle of How People Learn is that students need a firm foundation of factual knowledge ordered around the key concepts of the discipline. Some of the key concepts for the study of history are concerned with the content or substance of history—with the way people and societies work. These substantive concepts include, for example, political concepts such as state, government, and power, and economic concepts such as trade, wealth,
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom and tax. But understanding history also involves concepts of a different kind, such as evidence, cause, and change. Historians talk and write about things that go on in the world. Their histories are full of pioneers, politicians, and preachers, or of battles, bureaucracies, and banks. They give their readers explanations, they use evidence, and they write accounts, but their books are not about the idea of explanation, or the notion of evidence, or what kind of thing a historical account is. Rather, they use their own (usually sophisticated) understandings of evidence or explanation to write books about Columbus or the Maya or the American Revolution. Nevertheless, concepts such as evidence lie at the heart of history as a discipline. They shape our understanding of what it is to “do” history and allow us to organize our content knowledge (see Box 2-1). There is no convenient agreed-upon term for this knowledge of the discipline. It is sometimes called “metahistorical”—literally, “beyond history”—because the knowledge involved is not part of what historians study, but knowledge of the kind of study in which they are involved. Another term sometimes used is “second-order” knowledge, denoting a layer of knowledge that lies behind the production of the actual content or substance of history. Finally, because the knowledge involved is built into the discipline of history, rather than what historians find out, another term used is “disciplinary” knowledge. In this chapter, all three terms are used interchangeably to refer to ideas about “doing history.” It is important to stress that the intent here is not to suggest that students in school will be doing history at the same level or even in the same way as historians. The point is rather that students bring to school tacit ideas of what history is, and that we must address these ideas if we are to help them make progress in understanding what teachers and historians say about the past. Once we start to include ideas of this kind among the key concepts of the discipline, we can see that they also provide a basis for enabling students to think about their own learning. We thereby arrive at the third principle emphasized in How People Learn—the importance of metacognitive strategies (see Chapter 1). Monitoring one’s own learning in history means, among other things, knowing what questions to ask of sources and why caution is required in understanding people of the past. It means knowing what to look for in evaluating a historical account of the past, which in turn requires understanding that historians’ accounts are related to questions and themes. In short, it means having some sense of what counts as “doing” history. In Box 2-1, for example, Angela is implicitly asking whether her group is making the right moves in its attempt to explain why World War II started. She is using her knowledge of what counts as a good explanation in history to question how well the group really understands why the war began. In this way, metahistorical (disciplinary) concepts allow students to begin to
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom monitor their understanding of particular events in the past. As metacognitive strategies of this kind become explicit, they play an increasingly important role in learning. This introductory chapter first explores students’ preconceptions about history, pointing out some key concepts involved in making sense of the discipline. It considers students’ ideas of time and change, of how we know about the past, of how we explain historical events and processes, and of what historical accounts are, and why they so often differ (second-order ideas). The discussion then turns to students’ preconceptions of how political and economic activities work (substantive concepts). Of course, students’ ideas change as their experience grows and they encounter new problems; this means we need to consider how we might expect students’ ideas to develop as we teach them. Although there is a growing volume of research on students’ ideas about history, one that is expanding particularly rapidly in the United States, it is important to remember that there has been much less work of this kind in history than in science or mathematics.1 Research conducted in the United States and Europe over the past three decades appears to suggest that some of the key concepts of history (the discipline) are counterintuitive, and that some of the working assumptions about history used by students are much more powerful than others and may be developed in a systematic way over the years spent studying history in schools. The chapter ends with an exposition of how teachers can present history to their students in a way that works to develop historical understanding. HISTORY AND EVERYDAY IDEAS What do we mean by saying that history is “counterintuitive”? The “intuitions” at stake here are the everyday ideas students bring to history lessons. They are the ideas that students use to make sense of everyday life, and on the whole they work very well for that purpose. But people doing history are looking at things differently from the way we handle them for practical daily living. Take the example of telling the truth. If a youngster gets home late and her mother asks where she has been, the child has a choice between “telling the truth” and “telling a lie.” From the child’s point of view, what has happened is a fixed, given past, which she knows very well; the only issue is whether she tells it the way it was. Often children learn what counts as “telling the truth” in just this kind of situation, where the known past functions as a touchstone; it is as if what one says can be held up against the past to see if it measures up. This idea works fine in some everyday situations, but in history the past is not given, and we cannot hold what we are saying up against the real past to see whether it matches. The inferential discipline
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom BOX 2-1 Understanding the Past and Understanding the Discipline of History The three (British) seventh-grade students in the excerpt below are discussing why World War II started and whether it could have been avoided without thus far having studied this at school. All they have to work with from school history is their knowledge of World War I, along with anything they know from outside school. To understand what is going on here, we need to distinguish between two different kinds of knowledge about history: knowledge of what happened, of the content of history, and knowledge about the discipline of history itself. Angela I think Hitler was a madman, and I think that’s what… Susan He was … a complete nutter, he should have been put in a … um … Angela He wanted a super-race of blond, blue-eyed people to rule the world. Susan Yeah—that followed him…. Angela I mean, but he was a short, fat, dark-haired sort of person. Susan … little person. Katie Could it be avoided? I don’t think it could have. Angela No. Katie If Hitler hadn’t started … I mean I can’t blame it on him, but if he hadn’t started that and provoked … you know … us … if, to say, you know, that’s wrong … Susan It would have been [avoided]…. Katie Yeah, it would have been, but it wasn’t. Susan Yeah, if you think about it, every war could’ve been avoided. Angela I reckon if Hitler hadn’t come on the scene that would never have happened. Katie Oh yeah, yes, yes. Angela There must’ve been other underlying things, like World War I we found out there was lots of underlying causes, not only … Franz Ferdinand being shot…. Susan Yeah. Angela … but loads of other stuff as well. Katie Oh yeah, I don’t think he was so far …
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Angela Yeah, there must’ve been a few other main currents…. Katie But, like that Franz Ferdinand, he didn’t get, that was the main starting point for it all, that really blew it up…. Angela But I don’t know whether … because we don’t know any underlying causes. If Hitler hadn’t been there, I don’t know whether it could’ve been avoided or not. Susan Yeah but most wars can be avoided anyway, I mean if you think about it we could’ve avoided the First World War and any war … Katie … by discussing it. Susan Exactly. Katie Yeah, you can avoid it, but I don’t think … Angela Yeah but not everybody’s willing to discuss…. SOURCE: Lee and Ashby (1984). In discussing World War II, the three girls try to use what they have learned at school about World War I. Their knowledge points in two different directions. What they know about the events suggests to them that “most wars can be avoided” if people discuss their problems, so Susan and probably Katie think that World War II could have been avoided by reasonable negotiation. They have learned a “lesson” from their study of one passage of the past and, sensibly enough, try to apply it to another. Unfortunately the “lesson” does not hold. Angela has learned a different kind of knowledge from her earlier study of World War I, and it leads her to treat her friends’ lesson with caution. She has learned that a historical explanation is likely to require more than a single immediate cause, and that “underlying causes” may also be at work. So even if there had been no Hitler, we need to know more about international relations between the wars before we can say that World War II could have been avoided. Angela’s knowledge of how explanations are given in the discipline of history provides her with a more powerful way of thinking about why things happen. She knows what to look for.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom of history has evolved precisely because, beyond the reach of living memory, the real past cannot play any direct role in our accounts of it. History depends on the interrogation of sources of evidence, which do not of themselves provide an unproblematic picture of the past. Everyday ideas about a past that is given can make it difficult for students to understand basic features of doing history. For example, how is it possible for historians to give differing accounts of the same piece of history? (See Box 2-2.) Students’ common sense tells them that the historians must be getting things wrong somewhere. Differences in the Power of Ideas The everyday idea of telling the truth is often closely linked to a very recent past in which people remember what they did or saw. Some students behave as if they believe the past is somehow just there, and it has never really occurred to them to wonder how we know about it. In Box 2-2, Kirsty, like many other fifth and sixth graders, does not even raise the question of how we could know about the past. Other youngsters are only too well aware that this question may be problematic. Allison, a fifth grader, states the difficulty quite clearly: “You cannot really decide unless you were there.” If one thinks like this, history becomes impossible. If knowing something depends on having seen it (or better still, having done it), one can never say anything worthwhile about most of the past. Many students stop here, wondering what the point of history is. However, while some working assumptions make history appear to students to be a futile exercise, others allow its study to go forward. Samantha (fifth grade): Why are there different dates? No one knows, because no one was around then, so they both can be wrong. How could you decide when the Empire ended? If you found an old diary or something it might help. Does it matter if there are two different dates? Yes, because you can get mixed up and confused. We can see here both the problem and initial steps toward a solution. Samantha appears to agree with Allison when she writes, “No one knows, because no one was around then.” But Samantha, unlike Allison, sees the beginnings of a way out for historians. Perhaps someone told it the way it was and wrote it down, and we could find it: “If you found an old diary or something it might help.” This view remains very limiting because it still sees
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom the past as fixed, but it does make history possible. If we have true reports, historians are in business. Of course, many students see that truthful testimony may not be easy to come by. They are well aware that people have reasons for saying what they say and the way they say it. As Brian (eighth grade) remarks, “I don’t think we could find out definitely [when the Empire ended] because there are only biased stories left.” Students who decide that we cannot rely on reports because they are biased or give only opinions are almost back to square one. If history is possible only when people (eyewitnesses or agents) tell us truthfully what happened, its study once more comes to a stop. It is only when students understand that historians can ask questions about historical sources that those sources were not designed to answer, and that much of the evidence used by historians was not intended to report anything, that they are freed from dependence on truthful testimony. Much of what holds interest for historians (such as, What explains American economic supremacy in the postwar years? Did the changing role of women in the second half of the twentieth century strengthen or weaken American social cohesion?) could not have been “eyewitnessed” by anyone, not even by us if we could return by time machine. Once students begin to operate with a concept of evidence as something inferential and see eyewitnesses not as handing down history but as providing evidence, history can resume once again; it becomes an intelligible, even a powerful, way of thinking about the past. The Progression of Ideas Insofar as some of the ideas students hold are more powerful than others, we may talk about progression in the way students understand the discipline of history. For example, changes in students’ ideas about our access to the past allow us to discern a pattern of progression of ideas about evidence. Working from less to more powerful ideas, we find a given past with no questions arising about how we can know; a notion of testimony, with questions about how truthful a report may be; and a concept of evidence, whereby questions can be asked that no one was intending to answer.2 (Medieval garbage dumps were not constructed to fool historians.) Once we are able to think in terms of a progression of ideas in history, we can see how students’ understandings can gradually be extended. In some cases we can accomplish this by enabling students to discover how prior conceptions break down in the face of historical problems. However workable the idea of a given past may be in everyday life, for instance, it is a misconception in history. In other cases we can build more directly on existing ideas. Thus testimony is important to historians, even if it must be used as evidence rather than simply being accepted or rejected. The goal is to
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom BOX 2-2 Two Different Ideas About Historical Accounts In research by Project CHATA (Concepts of History and Teaching Approaches) into students’ understanding of how there can be different historical accounts of the same events, 320 British students in grades 2, 5, 6, and 8 were given three pairs of stories and asked how it is possible for there to be two different history stories about the same thing. Each pair of stories was about a different topic, and the two stories making up any particular pair were the same length and ran side by side down a single page. Specially drawn cartoons illustrated key themes and steps in the story. Younger children tended to say that the two stories in each pair were “the same” because they were “about the same thing” but were just “told differently.” Many of the students considered that the pairs of stories were different because no one has enough knowledge. Older students tended to emphasize the role of the author, some relying on relatively simple ideas of lies and bias as distorting stories, and others taking a more sophisticated view about the inevitability and legitimacy of a point of view. About 20 percent of the older students pointed out that stories answer different questions and fit different parameters (not their word). They did not see historical accounts as copies of the past and thought it natural that such accounts should differ. One pair of stories had to do with the end of the Roman Empire, each claiming it ended at a different date. The first story, dealing mainly with the barbarian incursions, ended with the fall of the Empire in the West in 476. The second, which concentrated on the Empire’s administrative problems, took the story up to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Below are two (written) responses to the task. Kirsty (fifth grade): Why are there different dates? One of the stories must be wrong. How could you decide when the Empire ended? See what books or encyclopedias say. Does it matter if there are two different dates? Yes, because if someone reads it and it has the wrong date in it then they will be wrong and might go round telling people.*
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Kirsty’s view of history is that if there is more than one account, one must be wrong. The past is given (in books), and she is sure that if historians read the same books and are honest, they will come up with the same story “because they will do the same things and they are not lying.” Everyday ideas are apparent here, but they do not help Kirsty solve the problem she faces. We can see how different things look for someone who has a more sophisticated understanding of what a historical account is if we read Lara’s response to the same problem. Lara (eighth grade): Why are there different dates? Because there is no definite way of telling when it ended. Some think it is when its city was captured or when it was first invaded or some other time. How could you decide when the Empire ended? By setting a fixed thing what happened for example when its capitals were taken, or when it was totally annihilated or something and then finding the date. Could there be other possible times when the Empire ended? Yes, because it depends on what you think ended it, whether it was the taking of Rome or Constantinople or when it was first invaded or some other time. Where Kirsty sees the past as given, Lara understands that it has to be reconstructed in that statements about the end of the Roman Empire are judgments about the past, not just descriptions of events in it. This means that a historical account is not fixed by the past, but something that historians must work at, deciding on a theme and timescale. Thus the problem of the date of the end of the Roman Empire is not a matter of finding an already given right answer but of deciding what, within the parameters of a particular account, counts as the end. Knowing when the Roman Empire ended is not like knowing when Columbus reached America. * All responses in this chapter not otherwise attributed are unpublished examples of responses from Project CHATA. For published CHATA work, see, for example, Lee and Ashby (2000).
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom other and illuminating each in the historical spotlight only begins to develop historical understanding if such topics are set in a wider historical framework. Students will be unable to make much sense of historical change if they examine only brief passages of the past in depth. The snapshots of different periods they acquire will differ, but it will be impossible to say why the changes occurred. Moreover, if students need study only short periods of history, they will have no opportunity to come to grips with a central characteristic of historical accounts—that the significance of changes or events varies with timescale and theme. A long-run study is therefore essential for students both to understand the kind of discipline history is and to acquire a usable framework of the past. Working through a narrative sequence of events of the history of the United States may not be the most effective way of helping students acquire a framework that can be adjusted to accommodate to or assimilate new knowledge. To provide something students can use and think about, we may need to teach a big picture quite quickly, in a matter of two or three weeks, and keep coming back to it. Such a framework focuses on large-scale patterns of change, encompassing students’ in-depth studies so they are not simply isolated topics. For a temporally extended topic such as migration, exploration, and encounter, students can derive a broad picture of migration to and within America, at first picking out just the main phases of population movement to America (the land bridge crossings, the Arctic hunters, the Europeans). As in-depth studies of Native American settlement and later European arrivals (including Columbus, later Spanish exploration, Virginia, and the Pilgrims) are taught, they can be fit into this broad picture. But if it is to be a usable framework, the original broad picture will have to be adapted and made richer as it expands to include new in-depth studies. The original three phases will become more complex. Patterns of movement within America can be taught (again quickly), and changes in population movement from outside can be studied, so that, for example, differences in the kind of European migration over time are recognized. Such a framework is not just a long narrative of events and cannot be organized in the same way as an in-depth study, bringing together all aspects of life in their complex interrelations. Instead the framework must allow students to think in terms of long-run themes, at first rather isolated from one another, but increasingly linked as students’ understanding increases. Population change, migration, and cultural encounter provide themes for a framework, but these themes will be taught at the level of a big picture of change. It is the in-depth studies nesting within the framework that allow students to explore how the themes play out at the level of events. If such a framework is to avoid overloading students with information, it must give them a range of large-scale organizing concepts for patterning change. It is the ability of such concepts as internal and external migration,
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom population density, and life expectancy to “clump” information in meaningful ways that allow students to handle “the long run” in history rather than becoming overwhelmed by a mass of detail. The in-depth studies chosen to nest in the long-run study remind students that the details of those studies’ complex interrelations matter too, and can serve as tests for the adequacy of the framework developed in the long-run study. But the latter must concentrate on the big picture, not degenerate into a series of impoverished would-be in-depth studies. Part of learning history is learning the effect of scale, and the difference between big generalizations (which can admit of exceptions) and singular factual statements. Taking stock of the ideas presented thus far, we can say that students’ substantive knowledge of history should be organized in a usable form so they can relate it to other parts of the past and to the present. This means students need to acquire a usable framework of the past, a big picture organized by substantive concepts they increasingly understand and can reflect upon. It also means they need an in-depth knowledge of contained (not overlong) passages of the past, with time to explore the way of life and world view of the people they are studying. This in turn allows them to begin to be aware of the complex interrelations involved and to be thoughtful and reflective about analogies they draw with other times and places. But learning history also requires an understanding of history as a discipline, evidenced in students’ increasing understanding of key second-order concepts. Without this understanding, students lack the tools to reflect on their own knowledge, its strengths, and its limits. Any picture of the past to which students are introduced inside school is likely to encounter rival and often opposed accounts in the wider world outside.36 As soon as singular factual statements are organized into historical accounts, they acquire meanings within the stories in which they figure. Such stories may already be part of students’ apparatus for thinking about the world before they encounter competing accounts in school. Teaching multiple perspectives, or critiquing particular accounts, is a valuable step toward facing up to students’ predicament, but it is not enough. To understand this point, consider these students’ responses when faced with two alternative historical accounts. Laurence, an eighth grader, insists that the differences between the stories do not matter “because it is good to see how other people thought on the subject and then make your own mind up. Everyone is allowed to hold on to his own opinions, and no matter what the evidence, people believe different things.” Briony, another eighth grader, claims that the differences are just a matter of opinion, and it does not matter “because it’s up to you to express your opinion unless there are sufficient facts that prove a story…. I think it really is a matter of opinion.” Rosie, a sixth grader, says accounts will differ “because some people are biased and therefore have different opinions of how it happened…. People are always
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom going to have different opinions of how something happened.” If students think like this, multiple perspectives are simply different opinions, and people can believe what they want. Xiao Ming, also in the sixth grade, sums up: “There can be many different opinions from historians so there can be different stories. Of course one has to be true but we don’t know which one.” Critiquing accounts will not make much sense to Xiao Ming when, despite our critiques, we can never know which is true. Without explicit teaching and reflection on the nature of historical evidence and historical accounts, as well as the different ways in which various types of claims can be tested for validity, multiple perspectives become just another reason for not taking history seriously. If students are to go beyond helpless shoulder shrugging in the face of contested histories, they must have an intellectual toolkit that is up to the task. There is a danger that “toolkit” implies something overly mechanistic, so that it is simply a matter of applying the tool to get the job done. Such a simple analogy is not intended here. What is meant is that some tasks are possible only if certain tools are available, and in this case the tools are conceptual. Students need the best tools we can give them, understandings that enable them to think clearly about, for example, what kind of evidence is needed to support a particular kind of claim or what questions are being addressed in competing accounts. Once they understand that accounts are not copies of the past but constructions that answer a limited range of questions within a chosen set of boundaries, students can begin to understand how several valid accounts can coexist without threatening the possibility of historical knowledge or leading to a descent into vicious relativism. Students have ideas about the past, and about history, regardless of what and how we teach them. The past is inescapable; it is built into our ways of thinking about ourselves. What would we say of someone who, when asked what the United States is, could define it only as a geographical entity? Our notion of what the United States is incorporates a past; it is a time-worm. Nor should we think that, because we are often told students do not know this or that piece of information about the United States, they have no version of its past. They certainly have one, but the question is whether it is the best we can give them. And while “the best” here does not mean “the one best story,” because there is no such thing, the fact that there is not just one best story most certainly does not mean that any story will do. What we should give our students is the best means available for making sense of and weighing the multiplicity of pasts they are offered in various accounts. To this end, students must learn to understand the discipline of history—the one offering school can make that the busy world outside cannot. Schools could hardly have a more important task. The study of history is often portrayed as learning an exciting—and sometimes not so exciting—story. This chapter has attempted to show that
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom there is more to learning history than this. But we are not thereby absolved from asking how the history we teach can engage our students and what they might feel about what they are getting from it. History offers students (albeit at second hand) strange worlds, exciting events, and people facing seemingly overwhelming challenges. It shows students the dark and the light sides of humanity. It is one of the central ways of coming to understand what it is to be human because in showing what human beings have done and suffered, it shows what kind of creatures we are. The past is, as has often been said, a foreign country.37 Its strangeness provides endless puzzles and endless opportunities for students to widen their understanding of people and their activities. An important part of understanding what appears strange is the disposition to recognize that we must try to understand the situations in which people found themselves and the beliefs and values they brought to bear on their problems. If students fail to see that there is anything to understand or do not care whether they understand or not, history will appear to be a senseless parade of past incompetence and a catalogue of alien and unintelligible practices. Empathy, in the very specific senses discussed earlier in this chapter, is central here. Historical imagination needs tools. History can also offer another very human motivation—a sense of mystery and adventure. One source of adventure is to follow the experiences of people who were moving into unknown territory. Such study can be quite literal, when focused on people who explored lands they had not known existed, or metaphorical, when focused on those who attempted what no one had done before in some aspect of life. In the case of one of the topics discussed in the next chapter—the Pilgrims—the sense of the precariousness of their situation and the sheer scale of the challenges they faced has long been understood by teachers to offer obvious opportunities for the engagement of students’ imagination. For older students, a dawning understanding of the enormity of the choices Native Americans had to make, in circumstances in which the future could only be guessed at, can offer a more complex and morally difficult stimulus to the imagination. But beyond adventure, strangeness, and a sense of awesome challenges, there is mystery. Young children—and many adults—love the mystery of the unknown. The voyage of St. Brendan (a topic in the next chapter) appeals to just this sense of mystery. What happened so long ago? What can we make of such a weird but sometimes plausible tale? Even better, the mystery arises in circumstances in which St. Brendan was having real adventures, too. Of course, if history is the tale of things known, a fixed story that simply must be learned, then mystery can be reduced to waiting for the next installment. If we teach history as simply a set of facts to be imparted to our pupils, the mystery is a phony one. The teacher knows the answers, so where is the mystery? It can only be in deciphering the workings of the teacher’s mind, in
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom finding out what he or she wants to hear—in short, in getting the right answer. In history there are unending opportunities for students to be given tasks that leave room for them to maneuver, and to be more or less successful in finding a valid answer to an open question. Knowing the facts then becomes an urgent and meaningful business because they are essential for beginning to answer the question, and the question is worthwhile because it is a real question. For a long time, and not just in history, schools have tended to keep a kind of secret knowledge from all but their oldest and most able students. Knowledge is contested, is provisional, and is subject to continuous change. Mystery never stops, and there is always a job for the next generation to do. The authors of this and the following chapter still remember, as one of the high points of their teaching lives, the excitement of the moment when a group of students whose main subject was science realized that science was not “all sewn up.” In learning the history of medicine, they came to see—quite suddenly—that the whole way in which scientists approached and understood disease had undergone major shifts. They had a future in science beyond tweaking the textbooks. If they could devise new questions, they could begin new projects. Knowledge was not closed but open and open to them, too, if they mastered what was known well enough to understand what was not. As we learn more, we should begin to see that mystery does not fade away as we come to know things. The more we know, the more questions there are, and the more there is that we need to understand. History must look like this to students as well. There is excitement in finding oneself in a richer, more open world than one thought one inhabited, but there is even more excitement in suddenly finding oneself empowered by a flash of understanding. It is not only that one has some stake in the answers and the right to a view. One can actually see that it is precisely what one is learning that gives one the right to the view, as well as the means to improve upon it. Understandings of this kind must be taught precisely because they are not things one picks up in everyday life. Generations of people have had to fashion the conceptual tools that really make a difference in the way we see the world. The only institutions whose central task is to hand those tools on and encourage the next generation to develop them are schools and universities, and the only people whose professional job it is to do this are teachers.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom NOTES 1. This reservation is important, but it should also be pointed out that there has been considerable agreement among independent research teams in the United Kingdom; moreover, some recent U.S. work, as well as research in places as diverse as Portugal, Spain, and Taiwan, appears to point in a similar direction. There is a strong U.S. tradition of research into the ways in which the meaning of particular history stories and topics is viewed by school students, but there has been rather less focus on students’ understanding of the discipline. Where such research has been undertaken, many of the researchers, such as Jim Voss, have worked mainly with college students. However, Keith Barton, Linda Levstik, and Bruce VanSledright have all done extensive research on the ideas of younger school students. Peter Seixas in Canada has carried out wide-ranging research with older school students. Sam Wineburg has worked with school and college students and with historians, and has recently begun to pay particular attention to ideas acquired outside school. Other U.S. researchers, such as Gaea Leinhardt, have investigated the differing approaches of history teachers to classroom history teaching, and investigation of students’ understanding of textbooks has been widespread. Students’ understanding of second-order concepts has been explored by Isabel Barca and Marilia Gago in Portugal; Lis Cercadillo, Mario Carretero, and Margarita Limón in Spain; and Irene Nakou in Greece. Research in this area outside the United States and Europe is also beginning to expand. Early findings from a Taiwanese study by Liu Ching Cheng and Lin Tsu Shu suggest that students in Taiwan share many ideas about historical accounts with British and Portuguese students. Mario Carretero has carried out some of his research in Argentina, and Angela Bermudez and Rosario Jaramillo have investigated ideas about causation in Colombia. Lists of this kind can only hint at the range of work, and any brief selection of names is necessarily invidious. This list, for example, omits a whole new generation of U.S. researchers whose work is beginning to be published. (See, for example, the authors in O.L. Davis Jr., Elizabeth Anne Yeager, and Stuart Foster (Eds.). Historical Empathy and Perspective Taking in the Social Studies, Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield, 2001.) 2. Lee et al., 1996a. 3. Shemilt, 1980. 4. Shemilt, 1994. 5. Shemilt, 1983, pp. 11-13. 6. Ibid, 1983, p. 7. 7. Barton, 1999, 2001. 8. Barton, 1996, p. 61. 9. Ibid, 1996, p. 56. 10. Cercadillo, 2000, 2001. 11. Levstik, 2002; Walsh, 1992. 12. Dickinson and Lee, 1978, 1984; Shemilt, 1984; Ashby and Lee, 1987; Lee et al., 1997; Lee and Ashby, 2001. 13. Ashby and Lee, 1987, p. 71.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom 14. Brophy and VanSledright, 1997, p. 130. 15. Lee et al., 1997, p. 236. 16. Lee et al., 1996a, 1997. 17. Dickinson and Lee, 1984, p. 134. 18. Shemilt, 1980, p. 33. 19. Shemilt, 2000, pp. 89-92. 20. Shemilt, 1980, pp. 30-32. 21. Lee et al., 1998. 22. Martin, 1989, pp. 58-61. 23. Shemilt, 1987; Lee et al., 1996a. 24. Thomas, 1993. 25. Ashby, 1993. 26. Wineburg, 1998; Wineburg and Fournier, 1994. 27. Lee and Ashby, 2000. 28. Barca, 1997; Cercadillo, 2000. 29. Lee and Ashby, 2000. 30. Furnham, 1992; Berti, 1994; Delval, 1992; Torney-Purta, 1992. 31. Berti and Andriolo, 2001. 32. Berti and Vanni, 2002. 33. Ibid., 2002. 34. Berti and Andriolo, 2001. 35. Furnham, 1992, pp. 19, 25, 26. 36. Seixas, 1993; Penuel and Wertsch, 1998; Wertsch and Rozin, 1998; Wineburg, 2000. 37. Lowenthal, 1985. REFERENCES Ashby, R. (1993). Pilot study on students’ use of evidence. Unpublished study, Essex, England. Ashby, R., and Lee, P.J. (1987). Children’s concepts of empathy and understanding in history. In C. Portal (Ed.), The history curriculum for teachers. London, England: Falmer Press. Barca, I. (1997). Adolescent ideas about provisional historical explanation. (Portuguese translation for publishing at CEEP.) Braga, Portugal: Universidade do Minho. Barton, K.C. (1996). Narrative simplifications in elementary students’ historical thinking. In J. Brophy (Ed.), Advances in research on teaching: Teaching and learning history, vol. 6. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Barton, K.C. (1999). Best not to forget them: Positionality and students’ ideas about significance in Northern Ireland. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal. Barton, K.C. (2001). A sociocultural perspective on children’s understanding of historical change: Comparative findings from Northern Ireland and the United States. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 881-891.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Berti, A.E. (1994). Children’s understanding of the concept of the state. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Berti, A.E., and Andriolo, A. (2001). Third graders’ understanding of core political concepts (law, nation-state, government) before and after teaching. Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monograph, 127(4), 346-377. Berti, A.E., and Bombi, A.S. (1988). The child’s construction of economics. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Berti, A.E., and Vanni, E. (2002). Italian children’s understanding of war: A domain specific approach. Social Development, 9(4), 479-496. Brophy, J., and VanSledright, B. (1997). Teaching and learning history in elementary schools. New York: Teachers College Press. Cercadillo, L. (2000). Significance in history: Students’ ideas in England and Spain. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of London. Cercadillo, L. (2001). Significance in history: Students’ ideas in England and Spain. In A.K. Dickinson, P. Gordon, and P.J. Lee (Eds.), Raising standards in history education: International review of history education volume 3. Portland, OR: Woburn Press. Delval, J. (1992). Stages in the child’s construction of social knowledge. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Dickinson, A.K., and Lee, P.J. (1978). Understanding and research. In A.K. Dickinson and P.J. Lee (Eds.), History teaching and historical understanding (pp. 94-120). London, England: Heinemann. Dickinson, A.K., and Lee, P.J. (1984). Making sense of history. In A. K. Dickinson, P.J. Lee, and P.J. Rogers (Eds.), Learning history (pp. 117-153). London, England: Heinemann. Furnham, A. (1992). Young people’s understanding of politics and economics. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences (pp. 19, 25, 26). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Halldén, O., (1994). Constructing the learning task in history instruction. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences (p. 187). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Lee, P. (2001). History in an information culture. International Journal of Historical Teaching Learning and Research, 1(2). Also available: http://www.ex.ac.uk/historyresource/journal2/journalstart.htm [Accessed January 14, 2003]. Lee, P.J., and Ashby, R. (1984). Making sense of the Second World War. Unpublished study of seventh grade students’ historical explanations carried out in 1984 in Essex, England. Data were collected using video recordings of groups of three students discussing possible explanations, with no adults present, University of London Institute of Education. Lee, P.J., and Ashby, R. (1998). History in an information culture. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Lee, P.J., and Ashby, R. (2000). Progression in historical understanding among students ages 7-14. In P.N. Stearns, P. Seixas, and S. Wineburg (Eds.), Knowing, teaching and learning history. New York: University Press. Lee, P.J., and Ashby, R. (2001). Empathy, perspective taking and rational understanding. In O.L. Davis Jr., S. Foster, and E. Yaeger (Eds.), Historical empathy and perspective taking in the social studies. Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield. Lee, P.J., Dickinson, A.K., and Ashby, R. (1996a). Progression in children’s ideas about history. In M. Hughes (Ed.), Progression in learning. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters. Lee, P.J., Dickinson, A.K., and Ashby, R. (1996b). Research carried out by Project CHATA (Concepts of history and teaching approaches), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Essex, England, 1991-1996. Lee, P.J., Dickinson, A.K., and Ashby, R. (1997). “Just another emperor”: Understanding action in the past. International Journal of Educational Research, 27(3), 233-244. Lee, P.J., Dickinson, A.K., and Ashby, R. (1998). Researching children’s ideas about history. In J.F. Voss and M. Carretero (Eds), International review of history education: Learning and reasoning in history, vol. 2. Portland, OR: Woburn Press. Levstik, L., (2002). Two kinds of empathy: Reasoned analysis and emotional response in historical thinking. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. Lowenthal, D. (1985). The past is a foreign country. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Martin, R. (1989). The past within us. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Penuel, W.R., and Wertsch, J. (1998). Historical representation as mediated action: Official history as a tool. In J.F. Voss and M. Carretero (Eds.), International review of history education: Learning and reasoning in history, vol. 2. Portland, OR: Woburn Press. Seixas, P. (1993). Popular film and young people’s understanding of the history of Native-white relations, The History Teacher, 3(May), 351-370. Shemilt, D. (1980). History 13-16 evaluation study. Edinburgh, Scotland: Holmes McDougall. Shemilt, D. (1983). The devil’s locomotive. History and Theory, XXII(4), 1-18. Shemilt, D. (1984). Beauty and the philosopher: Empathy in history and the classroom. In A.K. Dickinson, P.J. Lee, and P.J. Rogers (Eds.), Learning history. London, England: Heinemann. Shemilt, D. (1987). Adolescent ideas about evidence and methodology in history. In C. Portal (Ed.), The history curriculum for teachers. London, England: Falmer Press. Shemilt, D. (1994). Unpublished research, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Shemilt, D. (2000). The Caliph’s coin: The currency of narrative frameworks in history teaching. In P.N. Stearns, P. Seixas, and S. Wineberg (Eds.), Knowing, teaching and learning history. New York: University Press. Southern, R.W. (1953). The making of the Middle Ages. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom Thomas, J. (1993). How students aged 16-19 learn to handle different interpretations of the past. Unpublished study, University of London Institute of Education, 1990–1993. Torney-Purta, J. (1992). Dimensions of adolescents’ reasoning about political and historical issues: Ontological switches, developmental processes, and situated learning. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Walsh, P. (1992). History and love of the past. In P. Lee, J. Slater, P. Walsh, and J. White (Eds.), The aims of school history: The national curriculum and beyond. London, England: Tufnell Press. Wertsch, J.V., and Rozin, M. (1998). The Russian revolution: Official and unofficial accounts. In J.F. Voss and M. Carretero (Eds.), International review of history education: Learning and reasoning in history, vol. 2. London, England: Woburn Press. Wineburg, S. (1998). Reading Abraham Lincoln: An expert/expert study in the interpretation of historical texts. Cognitive Science, 22(3), 319-346. Wineburg, S. (2000). Making historical sense. In P.N. Stearns, P. Seixas, and S. Wineburg (Eds.), Knowing, teaching and learning history. New York: New York University Press. Wineburg, S., and Fournier, J. (1994). Contextualized thinking in history. In M. Carretero and J.F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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