Education Blog Posts

The History of History Teaching

Although our portrayals and access to history have changed, there have been one main element that has always remained at in the heart of teaching history over the decades. This element is the avoidance of conformity to preconceived notions. The separation of our personal lives from the history we are studying is incredibly important to historical thinking. This ties with the post I created last week titled Historical Thinking. So far, I have found Sam Wineburg’s research and articles to be incredibly interesting. I believe he makes many valid arguments as to why this is crucial within historical thinking. Looking at this week’s readings, Edward L. Ayer’s “Everyone Their Own Historian” was very fascinating. Ayer’s quoted C. Vann Woodward’s speech made in 1995 which discussed the role of the historian within society. “The historian must never concede that the past is alterable to conform with present convenience, with the party line, with mass prejudice, or with the ambitions of powerful popular leaders.”[1] Ayers continued this idea by explaining how and why this statement was important. The historian is granted the ability to create history with whichever evidence is presented, no matter how imperfect. The historian’s separation from history creates more honest research.  Lendol Calder and Tracy Steffes’s “Measuring College Learning in History” continued this idea. Their article discussed how historical thinking is attained within the classroom. One issue that is seen on various occasions within the classroom is the illuminating strangeness that the past can hold for certain students.

“We want to destabilize their assumptions about the past without making the past so strange, so other, that they write it off as either too weird or simply impossible to make sense of.”[2] Students often struggle with separating their preconceived notions about certain historical figures or events. This can lead to the inability to comprehend the evidence placed before them. Mills Kelly’s Teaching History in the Digital Age offered tips to help encourage students to participate and engage in historical thinking. Kelly’s work analyzed how and why it is difficult to teach history in the modern age. Teachers often just teach history as a set of names, dates, and locations, which rely solely on memorization. This habit leaves students with the pressure to find the correct answer, instead of interpreting the evidence placed before them. Kelly proposed how teachers can introduce digital media into their classes.“The best way to use digital media to teach them to see history as we see it is to create learning opportunities that make it possible for our students to do history—to practice it as we practice it—to help them make history, using their own creative impulses, rather than simply giving us what they hope is the correct answer to a question we have posed.”[3]

The articles this week focused on how and why historical thinking is important inside the classroom. They also proposed how and why teaching history within the digital age has changed. Overall, the articles this week were essential to our learning of historical thinking.

[1] Edward L. Ayers, Everyone Their Own Historian. Journal of American History Volume 105, Issue 3, December 2018, Pages 505–513,

[2] Lendol Calder, Tracy Steffes. “Measuring College Learning in History.” Social Science Research Council. May 2016.

[3] Kelly, T. M. Teaching History In the Digital Age. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013. EPUB.


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