AdrianaB's Response

1. As I discussed earlier “threshold concepts” are the essential skills that professionals must possess in order to master their field. According to Levesque, historians need to master the skills required for historical thinking. In his book Thinking Historically Levesque discusses the components of disciplinary-history, which he calls Substantive and Procedural Knowledge of History. Substantive history is the content or subject of what the history being studied is about, the narrative story. This develops from Procedural Knowledge, which is the method of research historians utilize to come to their interpretations and conclusions. Levesque argues that students have difficulties making sense of the past because in a typical classroom setting they are only receiving the fixed narrative but are not being shown how those narratives derive from research with primary and secondary sources. Levesque shows how progress has been made in the debate between memory-history, the cause in this teaching gap, and disciplinary-history. He argues that educators need to engage students in the procedural knowledge that is undertaken by historians in order to help resolve their difficulties with analyzing and questioning historical sources in order to come to their own conclusions.

2. Both Wineburg and Levesque argue that educators have failed in the past to engage students with the methods of research that historians use to reach conclusions that result in the narrative students are reading. Wineburg talks about the tensions between our modern sensibilities and how historians are able to use their historical thinking skill set to prevent inserting their own image, life and beliefs and embrace the logic of past cultures and time periods. Students have not been given the entire background in lessons, therefore, they learn by associating their modern logic resulting in a skewed historical narrative because there is an unintentional bias. Levesque argues that the implementation of memory-history instead of disciplinary-history is one of the main issues that created an environment where students do not learn the methods of historical thinking. Instead of focusing on their modern sensibilities as the root of the issue Levesque argues that it is the heavy focus on content that leaves students unable to understand how sources must be utilized to get to the end result. Both authors take their ideas and apply it to a slow step process of integrating these skills in the classroom. Levesque focuses more on a step-by-step process while Wineburg focuses on ideas about gaining feedback from students for the teachers to reshape their approach to the lessons. Wineburg does not give an answer to a new approach, something Levesque’s book was written to address.

3. I think experimental learning will give a clearer direction for the students and teacher’s lesson plans. The four steps that Levesque set out for teachers to implement are: (1) developing research questions, (2) collecting and selecting evidence, (3) analyzing evidence, and (4) developing interpretative answers (Levesque, 132). This type of experimental learning can be applied to lessons in a variety of ways leaving room for the teachers to be flexible depending on their students’ skills and knowledge. This will allow for students to learn at a pace the teacher deems appropriate for them. As they walk through research questions, primary and secondary sources and analysis, students will be able to follow basic steps that historians undergo in more complex scenarios. I believe this would allow students to come to diverse conclusions without becoming frustrated or helping to eliminate the tendency to relate historical events to their modern views. These skills can then be applied to many aspects of their life and lessons beyond the study of history.


CatherineM said:

Very well thought out answers! I thought it was great that you outlined Levesques 4 steps in question 3 to support your answer. And I definitely agree wit you that having that constant 2 way flow of information and feedback between the teacher and the student is crucial to teachers being flexible in their plans so students can learn in the best way possible. I would think though that there might be some initial frustration if the teacher decides not to take such an active role only because we are so traditionally accustomed to being handed the answer, where now the teacher is facilitating the path to finding the answer, but not actually giving the answer itself to the student.