Alex Ford Profile picture
Oct 5 25 tweets 16 min read
This year I am exploring the things I wish every new #historyteacher knew in their first years .…

In part 4 I want to talk about developing knowledge in history classrooms - something which has been a hot topic for a while. #PGCE #ECF
The ECF and CCF have quite a lot to say about how pupils learn. However much of this stops at the point of considering knowledge transfer and the role of memory. If you are not aware of these basics however it’s worth reading @mfordhamhistory in @histassoc TH166 ImageImage
Fordham is a good starting point for moving us from some generic principles about learning to something more specific about history.

Do a little task now: what have you seen great history teachers do when they develop new knowledge in class? Image
For me there are some key principles:
- they have a clear idea of WHAT needs to be learnt (substantive and second order)
- their chosen input (book, talk, video) breaks this down
- their tasks focus on thinking about the desired learning
- their assessments check this is embedded Image
But good teachers are also inherently relational - they adapt what and how they teach to their class
- they help students find the relevance of their learning
- they value what students bring to the classroom
- they celebrate learning as a collective aim - we learn together
So let’s go back to WHAT students need to learn. In a broad sense progress is the accumulation of knowledge and experiences over time. But there are many types (and ways) of knowing. In history we are always trying to hold together substantive knowledge and second order concepts ImageImageImage
History teaching has, at points, fixated on the acquisition of generic skills. The problem being that these don’t really exist in isolation. We can’t be independently good at doing causal thinking - we think causally about particular things. More here -… ImageImage
To illustrate the point have a go at the task here which is an example of “reading for meaning” as a “skill”. Most people will draw on a range of prior understandings but without the specific knowledge context you will almost certainly get the relationship wrong Image
To read this properly you need to understand the historic relationship between the US and Apache and the ways the Apache resisted and survived US colonialism. See the extract below and you’ll read that scene in an entirely new way. ImageImage
So we cannot do “skills” exercises and hope children will get better at history. Equally we cannot just deliver knowledge and assume this will result in better historical understanding. As Thread 3 noted, that’s not how history works! Knowledge is important but needs more thought Image
Plus, Brod (2021) suggests that even large quantities of prior knowledge can be of limited use unless teachers help activate it and ensure it’s both relevant and congruent to what is being learnt. @teacherhead has written similar recently… ImageImageImageImage
A key tool for history teachers is to have a big question which holds learning together over time, bringing disciplinary and substantive together and acting as a motivator. See egs from @Counsell_C & @katiehall1979 TH151. Individual tasks serve to advance the puzzle of the Qu. Image
Here is a good example. Note how the big qu shapes the first main task. Students embed key knowledge of the events in q1 and then move on to some causal prioritisation in q2. Both are needed to address the final question in image 3 ImageImageImage
Another exercise: look at these 2 tasks and consider what impact they’d have in advancing students’ understanding in a series of lessons asking the casual narrative question: “How did the Normans conquer England?” Image
Q1 serves a clear purpose in building knowledge of key factors and demands some thinking to decide whether an event helped or hindered.
But Q2 does little but convert the list back into its original form for the sake of following a GCSE question stem. Image
Again, look at this set of qus. Q1 does that same role of processing key knowledge. Q2 asks for some application to the question of HOW the Normans took control - moving to the disciplinary question. But how could it be strengthened? Would a different activity work better? ImageImage
For me asking students to identify methods of control in Q2 would have been more effective - possibly even giving a list of options to choose from. This would force some more explicit thinking about exactly HOW the Normans took control & addressing the qu
Now compare the egs you’ve seen with this. Note how the questions seem to serve little purpose here beyond content extraction-there is no sense of a bigger purpose, of disciplinary thinking , of the role or relevance of the knowledge highlighted. It’s a “Glombots” (ref) activity. ImageImage
We also need to think about the longer term roles of the knowledge we develop. Children build schema based on multiple and varied exposure to ideas. The knowledge we develop shapes the thinking pupils can do. Compare these two extracts. Which has the better schema about warfare? Image
It’s clear pupil 2 knows much a more about medieval warfare. The explanation is well grounded, if less well written than pupil 1. Pupil 1’s lack of schema was my fault as a teacher - I did not do enough to talk about medieval battles before trying to explore why W won at Hastings Image
So how do we develop complex schema? Repeated exposure to substantive and SO concepts is key. But how we move between concrete and abstract ideas over a task, a lesson, or over many lessons is also crucial. Semantic waves can reveal this process in action.
Effective teachers break down complex ideas and help students build up over time. Poor teachers often stay too abstract or too simple. This is often framed as an issue of “pitch” in schools. For more on this I would highly recommend @lee_rusznyak ‘s work. ImageImage
Have a go. Watch this video by @MonsieurBenger and note how he breaks down and builds up concepts over time (see images). Great teachers do this over time as well as in lessons.… Image
Finally, it’s worth considering that, even when we focus explicitly on what we want students to learn, we cannot always control where students minds will be or what they will learn from (Nuttall, 2007). This is why teachers cannot just be conduits of “knowledge” ImageImage
And if we want to develop students’ understanding of history then we need to know them and meet them where they are. Knowledge development means sharing collective goals for pupil-centred ends. This is where @1972SHP Principles are so valuable! #PGCE #ECT Image

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More from @apf102

Sep 28
NEW: Welcome to part 3 of “Things I wish every new #historyteacher knew”. Today I want to explore what all new history teachers would benefit from knowing about the way history works and how we can open this up for young people. As ever I am drawing on @1972SHP Principles 🧵🪡
Before we begin, a little exercise. If you drew a diagram to show how historical interrogations are created, what would it look like? This is a task I get trainee teachers to do every year. If we want to explain our discipline we need to have a sense of how it works.
This is not just a “nice to know”. The National Curriculum actually demands that we introduce young people to the content of history as well as the concepts which underpin it and how it operates. Fulfilling our basic duties as history teachers requires engagement here.
Read 26 tweets
Sep 17
OK Part 2 of my @1972SHP “things-I-wish-every-new #historyteacher was-taught” thread.

Last time we looked at how new teachers learn. Today I want to think about why we are teaching history at all. /1 Image
Marc Bloch’s “The Historian’s Craft” opens with a child’s question: “Tell me, Daddy. What is the use of history?” It is a question deceptively simple because it requires an exploration of deep truths about what history is and is for. /2 Image
At the age of 4, my own daughter asked me a similar question when I told her I trained history teachers: “Why do they want to teach history, Daddy?” Interestingly, this is the exact way I tend to open my course…by asking that question. Because purposes matter! /3
Read 24 tweets
Sep 8
A new year means 100s of history PGCE / ECT teachers starting prof. journeys.

Our current (& future) ITE system, means many get very limited subject specific input.

This year I’m using a @1972SHP lens to explore the core things I wish every new history teacher knew. 🧵/1
Before we get there I want to begin by thinking about how we learn as professionals, and new professionals especially. It really helps to ensure we are open to growth and less likely to run into potential barriers /2
The first thing to recognise is that professional teaching is a constant process of growth. The teacher we start out as will be substantially different to the one we develop into. Just like Ibn Battuta’s odyssey , it’s a long term journey where we need a curious & open mind /3 Image
Read 19 tweets
Jun 14
So last week my 5yo received the book commemorating the Platinum Jubilee. Govt constantly refers to “balance” in history but v little evident here. Just scratching the surface reveals why history can and should never be presented as a single, simple story. 🧵🪡
I don’t have a big prob w/ people commemorating 70yrs. But this book’s scope is wider than the life of Elizabeth II. It attempts to tell a story of the transformation of the UK from the 1950s to now - this means it carries much greater historical responsibility.
Crucially it is well presented and promises an interesting historical story. My daughter was fascinated. She asked me to read it to her at night. But the more I read, the more context I found myself having to give. My inner annaliste was nervous about the narrative.
Read 24 tweets
Apr 25
The American West has been a core GCSE topic in the UK for decades. But often the way it is taught perpetuates damaging narratives which erase Indigenous voices - much like this US example. Here are some of the things I wish I'd thought more about 16 years ago. A thread... /1 Image
Let's begin with preconceptions. This image comes from an amazing book by Philip Deloria: Indians in Unexpected Places. He shows how such an image reveals many preconceptions which shape how we think about Indigneous presence in North America. /2 Image
My own preconceptions of Native people began young and were shaped by TV westerns. I've spent a whole career unpicking them. Many teachers and students have their own preconceptions as you can see from the survey. It is often an image stuck in the C19th. /3 ImageImage
Read 25 tweets
Dec 9, 2021
Reading another eg of conservative voices in ed suggesting that seeking to diversify history ed, and ensure it better reflects scholarship, is a pursuit of niche interests, at the expense of improving edu for all.

Why this claim is false: a thread /1…
First @rpondiscio classifies the pursuit of “teaching history honestly” - an approach to history which suggests e we need to acknowledge racist and imperial roots in schools - as a “luxury belief”. Something of concern to the woke, young staffers but not the pupils they serve /2
He then goes on to claim that on 15% of 8th graders in the US “are proficient in history”, implying that time would be better spent “teach[ing] history.” The pursuit of a critical approach to a diverse past is suggested as a barrier to learning - a social injustice /3
Read 22 tweets

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