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Teaching Issues

How to make history meaningful

‘Bovvered?!’ How to make history meaningful

These are just some of the comments made by students when asked why they study history a few years ago.  Richard Harris from Reading University and Terry Hayden,  from the University of East Anglia asked 1700 students. Clearly some of the responses make sobering reading.

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Never fear. Help is at hand. The Schools History Project provide us with  guiding principles – have a look on the SHP website for a fully detailed version.

Here at historyresourcecupboard we fully endorse these principles, they agree with our thinking – probably shaped our thinking to be honest.

The SHP principles:

1.    The Schools History Project strives for a history curriculum which helps children and young people to develop their own opinions and values, and which helps them to understand and to articulate their multiple identities.

2.    The Schools History Project believes that historical enquiry; the constructive use of historical sources and creative communication should form the bedrock of the school history curriculum. It continues to argue for this, and to develop innovative approaches to these aspects of history education.

3.    The promotion of diverse content, diverse approaches to the study of history and a focus on the diverse experiences of people in the past are central to the Project’s work.

4.    The Project believes that there are still too few opportunities for children and young people to undertake history fieldwork and it continues to promote the study of history in the local historic environment.

5.    A focus on changes and continuities in human affairs over long periods of time is central to SHP’s work.

6.    SHP is committed to developing approaches to teaching and learning that combine enjoyment and active engagement with historical rigour.

Are these principles different to yours?

Michael Maddison, OFSTED’s / HMI’s Specialist Adviser for History stated recently that one of the key challenges facing History Departments is the ‘Absence of an overarching rationale leading to an unbalanced curriculum at KS3’. He is absolutely right. But a rationale alone will not make history more meaningful to your students.

According to Ben Walsh we should be, ‘looking at ways that they (teachers) can connect the history that they teach to the lives of their pupils’, and I totally agree with him.

When Neil Bates and I planned a workshop on this a few years ago we came up with 5 different types of examples we think work to help make history meaningful to our students.

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