History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Principles for enquiry

Our core principles for planning 9-1 GCSE enquiry based lessons

  1. Start each enquiry to create curiosity. Try and use the personal or particular story as much as possible.
  2. Students, should genuinely investigate for themselves,(with the correct level of support / guidance from the teacher).
  3. Pose a clear, well framed enquiry question that directs the subsequent learning.
  4. The information gathering sequence should be varied to keep interest: tables, card sorts, graphs, decision making activities, post it challenges, competition. See our ideas.
  5. The information gathering sequence should lead quickly to a focus on making meaning and genuine thinking: ranking, double continuums, spectrums, beat the expert, challenge the historian.
  6. All work set should be accessible and challenging.
  7. Mini plenaries  should be built in to check learning at key points in the enquiry process.
  8. The end products should be engaging – not just death by exam question.
  9. Fair coverage should be given to exam practice but the skills examiners crave should be taught in an interesting and thought provoking way.
  10. Modelling, modelling modelling.


Core principles for enquiry work re-visited

When Neil, Alec and I set out to plan the Making Sense of History series a few years ago, we wanted to ensure that an enquiry based approach shone through the books. We were luck enough to work with Ian Dawson who really helped us to see the wood from the trees. Together we came up with our enquiry sequence which has subsequently been used as a planning framework for many of our lessons on History Resource Cupboard.

Enquiry step 1: First evidence – asking questions

Here students are given one or two pieces of information that takes them to the heart of the enquiry, makes them curious and gets them to ask questions.

 Step 2: Suggesting an answer

In step 2 the students are given a little more evidence and then asked to come up with a possible answer (hypothesis). At this point the clever teacher introduces tentative language. How certain are they that their answer is correct?

Step 3: Developing your answer

In step 3 students look at more evidence and think again about their hypothesis. Can they improve it? Do they need to re-consider?

This step can be repeated as much as you dare!

 Step 4: Concluding your enquiry

At the end of the enquiry students are asked to use the evidence they have gathered to answer the enquiry question. They continue to use and develop their tentative language AND they should support their answers with evidence and explanation.

This sequence is evident in many of our enquiries. Try our introductory enquiries on:

The mystery of the Loughshinny skeletons

The mystery of Charterhouse square

Why was Richard Whiting executed?

Why did Sarah Barnes have to campaign to have her son’s name included in the war memorial?


 Core ingredients for cooking up high-quality enquiry work developed in Hampshire.   A number of these principles should be evident in any one enquiry:

Students genuinely investigate for themselves.

There will be some element of students raising their own questions / hypotheses.

They use authentic sources – even if in modified form.

There is an element of the enquiry being contentious.

There is a coherence to the way the enquiry progresses.

Promote and consolidate the understanding of key concepts (must be an integral part of the planning).

The guiding problematic enquiry question is referred to frequently in each lesson. Questioning needs to be carefully planned to allow access to higher level reasoning.

There is a balance between structured support and open-ended research. There must always be an element of students working on their own ideas.

There should be some new injection of evidence, possibly contradictory to the earlier sources, to simulate the reality of historical research and to encourage students to react to it. How does it fit with their emerging view? How should they respond?

There must be an element of students evaluating other accounts, either from other students or historical interpretations: visual, audio and text media.

Students arrive at an independent conclusion, forming their own judgment. This should be a product which commits students to creating an answer i.e. making history.

Enquiries should be made relevant and meaningful to students’ lives and current events.

Originally developed by the Hampshire Steering Group.