What students need to know and do
Students need to recognise that history is constructed in the present time by historians. It is not the same thing as ‘the past’. We need to discuss how historians influence the communities in which they operate. They do this because of how they interpret the past. Historians are custodians and creators of collective memory (Bain, 2000).
Student barriers to learning
Students have difficulty thinking like historians. They may find it difficult to separate ‘the past’ from history, the actual skill-set they are being invited to research and write/present at university. The student may have to be coaxed and coached to accept their part in the making of historical knowledge (Greene, 1994; Hughes-Warrington et al., 2009; Lee, 2004b; Nye et al., 2009; Nye 2011).
Our teaching strategies
Teachers could adopt a cognitive apprenticeship model to demonstrate historical thinking processes. As a normal part of history teaching, academics should explore explicitly with students the different contexts in which history is written. Contrasting histories on the same topic can be used to explain the subjectivities and orientations produced by contexts (Halldén, 1993; Holt, 1990; Lee, 2004b; van Drie & van Boxtel, 2008; Wineburg, 1991; Wineburg, 2001).
Bain, R.B. (2000). Into the breach: Using research and theory to shape history instruction. In P.N. Stearns, P. Seixas, S. Wineburg (Eds.), Knowing, teaching and learning history: National and international perspectives (pp. 331-352). New York, NY: New York University Press.
Greene, S. (1994). The problems of learning to think like a historian: Writing history in the culture of the classroom, Educational Psychologist 29(2), 89-96. doi: 10.1207/s15326985ep2902_4
Halldén, O. (1993). Learners’ conceptions of the subject matter being taught: A case from learning history, International Journal of Educational Research, 19(3), 317-25.
Holt, T. (1990). Thinking historically: Narrative, imagination, and understanding. New York: College Board Publications.
Hughes-Warrington, M., Roe, J., Nye, A., Bailey, M., Peel, M., Russell, P., Laugeson, A., Deacon, D., Kiem, P. & Trent, F. (2009). Historical thinking in higher education: Final report to the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Retrieved from http://www.altc.edu.au/resource-historical-thinking-highereducation-macquarie-2009
Lee, P. (2004b). Understanding history. In P. Seixas (Eds.), Theorizing historical consciousness, (pp-129-64). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Nye, A., Hughes-Warrington, M., Roe, J., Russell, P., Peel, M., Deacon, D., Laugeson, A., & Kiem, P. (2009). Historical thinking in higher education: Staff and student perceptions of the nature of historical thinking, History Australia, 6(3), 1-16. Retrieved from http://journals.publishing.monash.edu/ojs/index.php/ha/article/view/ha090073
Nye, A., Hughes-Warrington, M., Roe, J., Russell, P., Deacon, D., Kiem, P. (2011). Exploring historical thinking and agency with undergraduate history students, Studies in Higher Education, 36(7), 763-80. doi: 10.1080/03075071003759045
van Drie, J., & van Boxtel, C. (2008). Historical reasoning: Towards a framework for analysing students’ reasoning about the past, Educational Psychology Review, 20(2), 87-110. doi: 10.1007/s10648-007-9056-1
Wineburg, S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy, American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 495-519. doi: 10.3102/00028312028003495
Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.