THE HISTORICAL LITERACY OF SECONDARY
SCHOOL LEARNERS: A CASE STUDY OF THE
CONCEPT CAUSATION
SONJA SCHOEMAN
1
INTRODUCTION
• Re-framing debate about purpose, place and
methodology of History education – term historical
literacy useful concept
• Historical literacy is not purposeless knowing of
facts about past, but personal, social and political
empowerment of learners
• One key element of learners’ historical literacy is
understanding of historical concepts such as
causation
2
PROBLEM STATEMENT
Learners find explanation of causes of historical
events very difficult
Development of learners’ ability to think about causes
of historical events:
only partly product of physical development
effected by learning experiences, inside and
outside school
For many years, causes and effects of historical events
were offered to learners in South African schools as
recipes and not as something to think about
Although learners could grasp the idea that a historical
cause was something with the power to make
something else happen, they often could not identify,
articulate or understand the direct connection – the
causal link – between cause and effect
Inside school
Outside school
Portray causes of events
as cut and dried and
indisputable
Adolescent learners’
demonstrated ability
construct argument
Teacher dictates or asks
learners to copy
“recognised” causes of
certain events
Persuade parents grant
privileges/convince
friends concede to their
argument, “But ask those
same kids to construct
argument in history, and
they can’t do it”
Textbooks do not explain
connections between
cause and effect
There have been critics of traditional approach since
beginning of 20th Century
Learners themselves generalising,
analysing, judging and explaining
Identifying challenges faced by learners
seen as means by which teaching
solutions can be identified
3
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
• RQ1: What cognitive processes are involved in
learners’ causal explanation of historical events?
• RQ2: Which teaching strategies should be
implemented to enhance the historical thinking of
learners in terms of the concept causation?
3
PURPOSE OF STUDY
• To contribute to an understanding of cognitive
processes involved in learners’ causal explanation of
historical events
• To empower teachers to design lesson activities to
develop learners’ understanding of key concept
causation and enhance their historical thinking
4 CONCEPT CAUSAL EXPLANATION
Causal explanation
•
of historical facts
• taking
into
account
occurrence of one or
more prior events
• that can be considered
as “contributory causes”
4
EMPIRICAL STUDY
Non-experimental research design involving
quantitative data
4.1
Data-collection instrument
• Group-administered questionnaire
• Obtain data on cognitive processes involved when
learners explain causes of historical event –
Colonialism in Africa
• Planning of questionnaire
 Peel and Hallam’s model and Carretero et al’s
research findings
Age and expertise tend to have influence on way
learners explain causes of historical event
Questionnaire
Section 1
Section 2
Section 1:
Age of respondents
 Determine if age plays role in explaining cause of
historical event
 Age groups: 14 to 15 years old, 16 to 17 years old,
18 to 19 years old and 22 years and older
 Rationale for age groups: History abstract subject,
cannot be understood at stage well below formal
operational stage of 16.2 to 16.6
 Formal operational stage/explanatory stage,
learners able to make effective inferences from
limited information and hypothesise in terms of
motivation and causation
Section 2: Expertise
 Determine expertise plays role in explaining
causes of event
 Ordinal question: What caused colonialism in
Africa?
 Obtain precise answer to question presented with
six factors: intentional, ideological, economic
scientific-technological, political and strategic
 Rank six factors according to significance of each
in causation of historical event
 Ranking most important factor first, least important
factor sixth
• Rationale Colonialism in Africa knowledge focus
area for research project – its presence as topic in
History curricula of primary and secondary public
schools, pre-1998 as well as post-1998
• All respondents some tacit knowledge of topic
4.2 Respondents
• Systematic probability sampling technique
• 50 respondents, five groups of ten
Adolescent group
• Three of five groups comprised adolescents of
following age groups: 14 to 15 year-olds, 16 to 17
year-olds, 18 to 19 year-olds
• Adolescent respondents came from public schools
in Johannesburg West: D12 area
• Adolescent respondents exposed to History during
primary and/or secondary school careers
Adult group
 Two groups of adults older than 22 years of age
 Enrolled for PGCE (SP and FET) at South African
university
 Expertise (length and experience of history study)
varied from informal or tacit knowledge to formal
or extensive knowledge of historical event
 Adult respondents from all over Gauteng
Adult group: non-history graduates
 One group – Life Orientation method students
 Psychology, biblical or religious studies as majors
for their bachelor’s degree
 Exposed
to
History
instruction
primary/secondary school careers
during
Adult group: History graduates
 Second group History method students
 History as major for bachelor’s degree
 In-depth study of History
4.3 Data-collection procedure
• Johannesburg West: D12 office to three adolescent
groups
• Researcher to two adult groups
• Ethical considerations: anonymity and voluntary
participation
• 100% response
4.4 Data analysis
• Descriptive statistical analysis using mean ranking
scores
• Rank causal factors on scale of 1 to 6
• High ranking of factor represented 1
• Low ranking of factor represented 6
• Mean score of 3.5 or higher interpreted as low
ranking of a factor
• Mean score of less than 3.5 high ranking of a factor
5 RESULTS
Different groups of learners produced different
historical explanations depending on their age,
knowledge, experience of history
Adolescent group
 Influence specific persons in historical event more
important than structural factors
 Personalised understanding of history common
 Younger learners, concrete operational/descriptive
stage of cognitive development
 Older learners, formal operational/explanatory
stage of cognitive development
 Tacit knowledge, familiarity human action greater
role in explanation than historical skill
Adult group: non-history graduates
 Explanation testimony of formal operational/
explanatory stage of cognitive development
 Showed awareness
structural factors
of
personal
actions
and
 Used tacit knowledge, familiarity with human
action, meta-cognitive knowledge explain causes
of historical event
Adult group: History graduates
 Explanation testimony of formal operational/
explanatory stage of cognitive development
 Use extensive knowledge base of history explain
causes of historical event
 Personal agents almost no influence,
influential factors were structural factors
most
6
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
• Causation – easiest and most difficult historical skill
to teach
• More demanding – if aim to engage learners with real
historical thinking
• Activities to teach concept of causation to engage
learners in real historical thinking
• Topics for causation lessons: Major events in history
such as revolutionary change
• Example: The French Revolution
• Main objective of lesson: Enable learners to identify
and classify reasons for French Revolution
6.1
Introductory phase
• Introduce concept with cut-off-image starter activity
• Print from English engraving published 1798 of execution of
Louis XIV (1793) - but central scene blank
• Start with event from end of story ˗ work back to explore why
it took place
• Learners see consequences of chain of events - help focus on
what they will be asked to explain
• Study the source - look for clues to speculate what is
happening in picture
• Use prior knowledge of event
• Starter activity create problem to solve:
Why was a king, who normally was the person who gave
orders for someone to be executed, executed?
• List of questions focus enquiry around causal reasoning:
 What were the causes of the revolution?
 What were the key events leading up to Storming of Bastille
on 14 July 1789?
 How and why did the French Revolution happen?
• Before analysis of causation can take place learners
understand:
 narrative of French Revolution
 chronological factual base
• Learners need not to know every event leading revolution, but
appreciate how certain events lead to deterioration in
relations between king and people of France
6.2
Middle phase
• Card sort activity
• Reread narrative, underline or highlight phrases relating to
possible reasons
• Write individual reasons for event on cards
• Learners classify reasons and move cards to create patterns
and orders
• Success of activity based upon discussion of possible links
• Identify social, economic, political and intellectual causes
• Consolidate underlying reasons for revolution
• Certain events (such as absolute power) classified under
more than one category, solution learners place cards into
Venn diagram
6.3
Concluding phase
• Extended writing activity with categories as paragraphs
• Learners in groups of six explain Venn diagram to class as a
whole
Download

18) The Historical Literacy of secondary school teachers