Beyond Names and Dates: Teaching Students to Employ Historical Reasoning
This essay explores several obstacles that a student brings into a high school history classroom. Since the main goal of history is to develop abstract reasoning, it is troublesome that a student's cognitive development could impede this end. In addition to barely having developed what Piaget refers to as formal operation, the student's previous history training, as well as other classes, have led to a complacency with reading texts at face-value. As an adolescent, the learner will be, to a certain degree, egocentric, and will judge historical figures and events from his or her own perspective. Several researched methods are explored to alleviate these issues, including such tasks as developing specific historical skills within Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, creating representations that guide students toward the teacher's level of reasoning, and discussing paths of reasoning as a class during the lesson. These ideas are applied to a European History class, in a hypothetical attempt to demonstrate their applications.