This paper examines ways for students to learn the importance of history. It provides teachers with ideas and thoughts about different approaches to teaching history. The study examined how students viewed historical time, made historical judgments, and what students saw as historically important. An ethnically diverse, urban class of 22 eighth graders studied the exploration and British Colonization of North America for 7 weeks. Six students were interviewed before and after the study unit to assess prior and subsequent knowledge of U.S. colonial history. After the unit ended, most of the students consistently had difficulties reconstructing what they learned in the unit. Results are discussed in terms of 3 points: (1) the importance of prior knowledge and historical sense-making; (2) the need for more powerful themes on which to build an understanding of the period than chronological structure alone; and (3) the potential to increase students' meaning-making experiences by offering them significant reasons for learning history and connecting historical study to their personal lives. Concluding the paper is a 27-item bibliography, a 2-page appendix of pre- and post-unit protocol questions, and a table of unit objectives. (JAG)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April 1994). Sponsored in part by a grant from the General Research Board of the University of Maryland.