ERG SES E 11, Educational Curriculums
Teaching history is often associated with learning factual knowledge in a way that can be disconnected from student experience, with successful learning demonstrated through the regurgitation of these facts (Russell & Pellegrino, 2008). This method of teaching history can limit student engagement with exploring, comparing and in some cases, challenging these ‘facts’. Mayer (2006) states that there remains a resistance to teaching history that promotes deep learning and critical thinking required of the discipline. The ‘facts’ of the discipline are contentious, which extends to the continuing debates amongst experts in the field. These contradictions further complicate the nature of history as a discipline, but they do present a significant opportunity for teaching students how to ‘think historically’ (Mayer, 2006). McCormick and Hubbard (2011) assert that ‘teachers lecture students about the important of the past rather than allowing students to discover for themselves the significance of past events’ (p.82).
McCormick and Hubbard (2011) claim that children should be ‘formulating historical problems, locating relevant information, grappling with evidence, weighing alternative explanations and reaching justified conclusions on their own’ (p. 80). Source analysis can provide rich opportunities for engaging students in history, facilitating critical thinking and developing a deeper understanding about historical events and people (Mayer, 2006). Undertaking source analysis can inspire curiosity and develop understanding about past events through critical thinking and inquiry. At first glance, students can record initial observations about a source and pose questions, but they can also delve much deeper by connecting initial observations to facts and research about the context in order to make stronger inferences and draw compelling conclusions.
There are two types of sources that can be used for source analysis; primary and secondary sources.
Primary sources: These are the ‘original’ or firsthand sources that have survived from the past. Primary sources include newspapers, letters, diaries, artefacts, photographs, eyewitness accounts, interviews and recordings.
Secondary sources: These are ‘interpretations’, or secondhand sources that are produced using other primary sources. Secondary sources are created by someone who did not participate in or experience the event. Secondary sources include textbooks, documentaries and newspaper/magazine/journal articles.
This project sought to examine the mandated Australian Curriculum standards (ACARA, 2014) to determine how source analysis is addressed in the standards and the possible ways that source analysis could be enacted in the primary classroom.
What skills are evident in curriculum documents that support source analysis in the classroom?
How can standards be translated into practice when using source analysis in the classroom?
This analysis was conducted as part of a larger project focusing on museum-education partnerships. The data used in this analysis consisted of publicly available curriculum documents. Inductive analysis techniques were initially used for the analysis of the Australian Curriculum to develop skill categories. The standards for levels Foundation to level 6 of the History curriculum were coded for skills that pertain to source analysis. The second pass coding then determined categories of skills that were applicable across levels. A comparative analysis was then conducted by applying the categories to the Primary History Curriculum documents for Ireland (NCCA, 1999). After verifying the codes with two distinct curricular, the source analysis categories were then used to explore current literature to determine effective teaching methods for supporting skill development in students at various stages of primary schooling.
The results of the Australian Curriculum showed four distinct source analysis categories. These categories are generic enough that they could also be applied to other curricular; as demonstrated when conducting the analysis of the primary curriculum of Ireland. Students at every level should engage with sources as evidence to make meaning and judgements about the past. 1. Identifying sources: In level one, students are provided with sources and by level four, students ‘identify a range of primary and secondary sources’. 2. Using questions: Level one requires students to ‘respond to questions’. From level two, ‘students pose questions’ and by level six, ‘when researching, students develop appropriate questions to frame a historical inquiry’. 3. Multiple perspectives: From level two, students ‘compare objects from the past and present…to identify a point of view’ moving to multiple perspectives in level 4, where students ‘detect points of view’. In level six, students ‘analyse information or sources for evidence…to identify different perspectives’. 4. Skills for source analysis: In level one, students, ‘collect and interpret information and data from sources provided’ and by level six, students are required to ‘locate, collect, organise and categorise relevant information to answer inquiry questions’. Conclusions Different sources can be selected and used as forms of evidence to develop explanations about the past. Source analysis results in different perspectives, which highlights the contestability of historical events and how they are interpreted by people who experienced the event and those who study it. Analysing a range of sources can contribute to a deeper understanding of the period or event. A limited number of sources can result in an incomplete story. Source analysis requires asking questions and thinking about the people that lived in the past. This approach can deepen our understanding of their lifestyle, skills, values and attitudes.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2014) Foundation to year 10 curriculum: Humanities and social sciences). Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/humanities-and-social-sciences/ McCormick, T. M., & Hubbard, J. (2011). Every picture tells a story: A study of teaching methods using historical photographs with elementary students. The Journal of Social Studies Research 35(1), 80-94. Mayer, R. (2006). Learning to teach young people how to think historically: A case study of one student teacher’s experience. The Social Studies 97(2), 69-76. National Council for Curriuclum and Assessment (NCCA). (2017). Primary curriculum: Social, environmental and scientific education. Retrieved from http://www.curriculumonline.ie/Primary/Curriculum-Areas/Social-Environmental-and-Scientific-Education Russell, W. B., & Pellegrino, A. (2008). Constructing meaning from historical content: A research study. Journal of Social Studies Research 32(2), 3-15.
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