Friday, March 12, 2004

Teaching Historical Thinking.

Teaching Historical Thinking. Students don't come to class ready to think about history. This paper examines ways that a teacher can teach historical thinking.

From the site:

Over the past decade, cognitive studies researcher Samuel Wineburg has conducted empirical studies to compare the way historians think about primary and secondary sources with the thinking processes of high school students and teachers. Wineburg discusses his research in a recently published (2001) book about historical thinking, which is the main source for this Digest. Wineburg's research demonstrates the importance of domain-based or subject-specific thinking in the teaching and learning of history. This Digest addresses Wineburg's conception of historical thinking and its application to the teaching and learning of history in schools. The Digest discusses (1) Wineburg's "sourcing heuristic" and "corroboration heuristic" in historical thinking, (2) Wineburg's findings on historical thinking and domain-specific knowledge, (3) applications of historical thinking to reading and interpreting documents, and (4) Internet-resources for teachers of historical thinking.


Wineburg uses two key concepts -- the "sourcing heuristic" and the "corroboration heuristic" -- to explain how historians think as they read documents. When historians examine primary sources, they engage in the sourcing heuristic by asking questions about an author's credentials, motivations, and participation in events at the time a document was written and the audience for whom the document was intended. Historians contextualize the content of a document, which enables them to appreciate ways of perceiving and thinking that are quite different from conventional ways of perceiving and thinking today. When teachers and students use the sourcing heuristic, they can create a distance between their own views and those of the people of earlier eras.

Historians also use the corroboration heuristic to compare information learned from several documents. Historians make inter-text links while reading documents, noting corroboration among primary sources as well as among historians' interpretations.

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