AlexandraR's Response

1. Lévesque describes the "threshold concept" faced by history students as a lack of deeper understanding of the content of a historical period. He believes that educators put too much emphasis on the retention of ideas, without caring to introduce them to the procedural concepts of the past. He believes students must delve further into understanding "significance, evidence, and empathy" when studying the past (pg. 37).

2. Lévesque believes that students lack understanding of procedural history, or the method of thinking historically. It is easy, and overemphasized, for students to learn substantive history, or history from a narrated perspective that is written in textbooks - this is "what history is about" (pg. 30). The practice of understanding the procedure of history gives students the ability to make historical claims. In Wineburg, specifically his analysis of college students overlooking important elements of primary sources, it seems evident that this study is an "effect" of students not understanding procedural history. Lévesque showcases the "cause" for students not understanding history, with roots in not utilizing procedural history. Therefore, it is important for students to understand the structure of history, not just the final story within a textbook.

3. Lévesque believes that students need to craft their own theories and narratives of history through experiential learning. Because so many students struggle with primary sources, a useful approach is for teachers to guide students through inquiries about historical sources. An excellent approach to this, described in the reading, is for teachers to begin by giving students contemporary sources, not sources from the past, where students can learn skills of analysis through familiar material. Eventually, this method will lead students to think logically about the relationships between the source material and create their own picture of a historical narrative, leading to a “private understanding” of complex ideas. Therefore, students aren’t only reading a story written in a textbook or listening to a lecture given by a teacher – they are learning to draw their own conclusions through the implementation of experiential learning.


AdrienneW said:

Alexandra, I think your explanation of difference between Lévesque's and Wineburg's understanding of how students learn was well thought out and explained. I had not thought about it in the same way but can see your point that Lévesque finds the root of student's not understanding in not utilizing procedural history.

AdrianaB said:

Alexandra, I agree that Levesque’s experimental learning addresses the issues that students have with analyzing primary sources. By suggesting teachers walk students through the process allows teachers to control the content students use without confusing or frustrating them. I agree that this will lead to students developing the skills that they will use on their own. However, I also feel that teachers will need to step back from their guidance at times in order for students to rise to the occasion and showcase their skills. Levesque does a great job laying out a lesson plan for students with no base knowledge on how historical thinking works. I wonder what the next step would be once these basic skills are acquired. For upper level college courses those who want to learn more or pursue a history degree will need to have more complex understanding and skill set than what Levesque is suggesting.

KathrynG said:

I think you did an excellent job describing the difference between Levesque and Wineburg's theories on teaching history. Wineburg correctly states that historical thinking is a skill which must be learned, but he does not lay out a strong argument for how to teach historical thinking. Levesque's descriptions of procedural history, the kind of questions a historian must ask in order to create a narrative history, give students a chance to understand how we know what we know, not just how to repeat facts and figures. As you said, Wineburg pointed out the problem, Levesque suggests a solution.

I disagree somewhat with your response to question 1, that Levesque feels that history students lack a deeper understanding of the content of a historical period. To me, that would imply that Levesque argues that a student needs to learn more facts and figures in order to understand history. As I read the article, I felt that Levesque wants students to understand that history is more complicated than just a list of cold facts and dates, and the best way to teach a student to do history is to have them use evidence and empathy to make their own arguments about what is significant in history.