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Learning to Think Like a Historian

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Chad Nielsen

on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of Learning to Think Like a Historian

-Who produced this document?
-What biases and predispositions may the author have?
-How does bias affect the content?
-What other voices may have been included in this document?
-When was the document produced?
-Where was the document produced?
-What was occurring in the time/place of production?
-How does context affect the document?
-What information is similar/different to other documents?
-How might the source explain contradictions?
-What has been left out or not said within the document?

Guiding the Procedure Through Questioning

-Critical analysis is developed through discussions guided by the teacher
-Teacher gives explicit instruction within the process of developing histiography
-Procedural instructions guide group discussion
-Written essays develop a coherent final product as a wrap up.

Developing Critical Analysis as a Group

-Students read silently and refer to a focal question about the main point of the text
-Whole group discussion is led by students with minimal teacher intervention
-A position is taken regarding the text and students cite evidence
-Both sides of the position will be evaluated and individual determination to be made using the evidence

Collaborative Reasoning

-Text bias can easily be perceived by students
-Students tend to hold onto preconceived viewpoints regardless of bias
-Familiar content allows students to think more critically about the events being studied.

Text Effects..

-Studies find that students are able to corroborate two texts effectively in gaining factual evidence
-Thinking critically about the authors perspective proved to be a challenge
-Students require additional instruction when using multiple texts, especially those with differing viewpoints

High School Students’ use of Disciplinary Knowledge in History

-History is dependent upon those who ascertain the facts.

-An interpretation of these facts developed by critical analysis of the documents produced by historians will create historical truth.


-Using written products is consistent with language arts goals
-The written product should reflect the critical analysis of the discussions
-Essays can be used to synthesis documents
-Short documents that involve synthesis will improve analytical abilities

Written Products

-Readers construct meaning with a critical eye on the authors
-Teacher prompts author evaluative questions
-“That is what the author is saying, but what do you think the author means?”
-“Does this fit with what you already know?”
-“Does this make sense?”
-The author is human and not an omnipotent source of knowledge

Questioning the Author

-Graphic organizers help students of all ages compile information from multiple texts
-Prior knowledge is introduced
-Teachers to probe for focal points ; facts and questions also included
-Conclusions to be created that represent evaluation of the different textual perspectives.

Paradigms for Teaching Children to Analyze Historical exts

-Students working within groups tend to make light connections to the text and struggle with the critical analysis
-Group work often resulted time lost due to procedural discussion- who reads, who writes..etc..
-Students were not able to read and discuss the text critically any better than if they were working independently

Group Process..

-Students will be able to identify both sides of a historical event to reinforce interpretations
-They learn that there is no absolute truth and it is relative to the text
-Students acting as historians view textbooks as a creation of an authors perspective
-Multiple documents are examined critically for source, context, and corroboration

Critical Analysis

-Using historical texts can help create a lens to understand present events
-Teachers can use specific prompts after learning about a current events to help students think about historical context that helps create meaning
-Students learn to use historical evidence to support judgments about current events

Using History to Understand Current Events

Learning history is not process of filling a basket (students’ heads) with facts; it is learning historical information and creating an interpretation of the event.
The interpretation of events creates a narrative of a people
Three analytical abilities need to be used within the interpretation
1. Corroboration- comparison of documents
2. Sourcing- consideration of the text for bias
3. Contextualization- perspective affected by time and place of document creation

Disciplinary Knowledge

-History is teaching the narrative of an era
-Histiography teaches the process of history among a cluster of events
The process of learning history should involve multiple source documents to develop interpretations
This can turn students into historians

-Text are produced for a purpose by a person
-“Truth” is an approximation depending on who is telling the story

-Grasps concepts of history as a narrative as depicted in textbooks
-Text hold common view
-Text is the bearer of information

What is History

Steven A. Stahl & Cynthia Shanahan

Presentation Created by Chad Nielsen

Disciplinary Knowledge through Critical Analysis of Multiple Documents

Learning to Think Like a Historian
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