What is the Future of Historical Thinking in Schools and Colleges?

According to Craig Thurtell of Ardsley High School (NY), the future of historical thinking is bright.

Thurtell attended the recent meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Milwaukee and has written a very thorough analysis of the sessions related to historical pedagogy.  Here is a taste:

Teaching students to think like historians may be an idea whose time has arrived. The April annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH/NCPH)/National Council for Public History (NCPH) in Milwaukee certainly offered abundant evidence of its spread. This approach rests on several key premises. First, history is understood not in the popular sense, as everything that has ever occurred in human history, but rather as an interpretation of the relatively meager evidence that has been left to us by the past. Interpretation of this evidence, in fact, constitutes the essence of the discipline. If students do not have the opportunity to grasp and practice this essential activity, they will not grasp history; instead they will misunderstand it as a chronicle of forgettable events. A second premise recognizes that history, as practiced by historians, requires the application of certain understandings and cognitive skills that are unique to the discipline. For example, historians master a conceptual framework that includes causation, chronology, and many other concepts, and, in analyzing primary and secondary sources, they deploy specific cognitive skills like sourcing and inference in order to interpret these documents.

Read the rest here.

Thurtell concludes that nearly all of the sessions he attended challenged the traditional “coverage” model of teaching history and offered a deeper and more scholarly approach to historical pedagogy than has previously existed.

Are you interested in learning more about recent trends in historical thinking?  Here are some resources that I use in my “Teaching History” course (HIST 390 at Messiah College:

Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts

Lendol Calder, “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” Journal of American History (2006).

Bruce VanSledright, The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories, and Policy

Peter Stearns, et.al, Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives

Gary Nash, et. al., History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past.

One thought on “What is the Future of Historical Thinking in Schools and Colleges?

  1. John–

    The recent issue of “Perspectives on History” has some great, challenging articles relating to pedagogy. They would be a nice addition to your list.



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