Today I attended my first professional development event; I attended a work shop put on by The Critical Thinking Consortium at the Delta Museum. I spent the day there with 2 other TCs from our “sister” middle year’s cohort. While the morning’s workshops focused on school programs presented by the Delta Museum the afternoon was spend learning about how to think and get students to think historically, in between was a 2 hour lunch break spent having lunch and exploring Ladner with the other TCs, who I feel very lucky to have had the chance to get to know them on a deeper level during that time, as we had talked in class and at social events but I had never had the opportunity to have deeper conversations with and learn their stories. To me this team bonding time was almost as important as the academic portion of the day because teaching requires strong relationships with fellow teachers. It is also fun to step away from the serious academic work sometimes and share our stories from practicum and the funny things that have happened as well as our hopes and fears for the next two weeks.
I learned a great deal during the afternoon session about historical thinking and would like to modify one of the ideas I heard. The speaker was discussing making history projects relevant to the kids and going beyond just learning about explorers or the significant figures in Canadian history but taking on their character and finding a way to prove how the character is significant. The students then based on the evidence presented vote to determine which characters are the most significant in Canadian history this could also be done with events. I would like to try this as part of the grade 4 explorers unit or modify it for the grade 5 curriculum and let them pick a famous Canadian and present the evidence using their historical thinking and critical thinking skills to show the class why they are famous and significant to Canadian society.
In the afternoon session today we also talked about the six core skills of historical thinking as well as why it is necessary to think historically. My notes from today’s presentation are summarized below.
Origins of historical thinking
Why it is necessary for students to think historically and what skills do they need to be able to do so. As teachers we should be developing skills to help students find and comprehend information. With the easy accessibility of information in our digital world students no longer need to memorize dates and time lines instead we need to be focusing on what stories to tell and why those stories are significant or how did they change the world and affect the world we live in today. We also need to present more rounded views of history beyond the typical text book version showing “dead, old, white men” we need to show all characters and tell all parts of the story and teach our students to look at the whole story, not just how it affects us today but how it changed the lives of those who experienced it. These skills carry from topic to topic and can be built on year after year not just in history but in other aspects of the curriculum. These skills give students and teachers the skills to think critically about and build their own conclusions in history.
Historical thinking concepts
Looks at why does the event or story matter as well as whose story it is and why it is told. And can be broken down along the following points:
• Deciding what and whose story to tell
• Prominence at the time
o Did the people at the time think this was or would be important
o Will it be recognized as important
o Did it have deep consequences for many people over a long period of time
o To what event is this window on? A larger issue that is still important today
Evidence examines what information we have about a particular story as well as what the purpose of recording the information was and who recorded it. Some things that we were asked to consider today were:
• How do we know what happened in the past
• There are gaps in the record
• Historians must interpret the evidence left over from the past. Part of the historical record has gone missing and other parts have been forgotten or never recorded in the first place.
• Look at who, when and why a document was written
• Contextualize the evidence
• Use a primary source document and photos as much as possible
• Compare and contrast primary source documents to both modern documents and sources created at the same time
• Be a historical deceive weigh the evidence to come up with the best story
Continuity and change:
Describes the process of examining both what is the same and what is different between the past and now. It allows students to make meaningful connections to the material being presented. As teachers we were asked to help our students keep the following in mind during their historical research projects and undertakings
• Looking at the similarities and differences between life and now
• Things are changing yet staying the same
• Values evolve over time
• Progress and decline how have things cycled over time
• Does change mean progress
• Create manipulative a that allow them to see the change over time
Cause and consequence:
This skill asks teachers and students to take all factors into consideration when examining events, their causes and implications. It is not enough to look at just the direct cause of an event , one must look deeper into the underlying causes be it religion, politics, culture or the implications of other events it is never just one cause that leads to an event that has far reaching change. This is something we as teachers should keep in mind in the day to day functioning of our classrooms as “problems” between children occur the same principals apply. We also must look at the consequences of events both past and current to help our students understand how they will shape the future and realize that we may not know the far reaching effects for some time after an event as we do not know instantly all of the things it will affect. Some of the things that were brought up in the presentation for us to consider were:
• Causes are complex
• Look at underlying and immediate factors
• Underlying build over time
• May be multiple causes for the same event
Historical perspective taking
Historical perspective taking is one that could be quite challenging for both teachers and students as it requires an understanding of not just the events but the social, emotional, intellectual and cultural constructs of the societies in which the events were occurring. It is more than just acting out the past it truly understanding the society and as many aspects of the events as possible. Some things to keep in mind are:
• Challenging for students
• Avoid judging the past using our present beliefs
• Helps students to put themselves into the social cultural and intellectual contexts that shaped people’s lives.
• Understanding the people
• It’s an imaginative process
The ethical dimension
The final dimension of historical perspective taking is the ethical dimension that looks at what were the beliefs around an issue when it occurs as well as how it is reacted to today. This helps us understand many more controversial issues from the past as well as our reaction to them today. Some of the reasons given for the study of ethical dimension of history were:
• We make ethical judgments about people and events in the past in order to face the ethical issues today
• Learn from the past to guide our future
• Was it an acceptable reaction
• What information was available to people
• How do our past mistakes connect to the present?
• Judgements change over time
• We need to look at the present as well as at the past
For each of the topics above the Critical Thinking Consortium has produced a video to help students learn about them , the videos and lesson plans can be found at http://tc2.ca/history.php
Wow this is defiantly my longest blog post yet! Thank you reader for taking the time to go through this very long post!