HannahK's Response

Lévesque is describing a “threshold concept” when he discusses student’s difficulties in being able to do history. The “threshold concept” is the idea that in each discipline, there are certain core concepts that, when understood, unveil new ways of thinking about that discipline. Lévesque writes about two types of history: Memory history and Disciplinary history. Memory history is substantive knowledge. It is content we learn from books, textbooks, movies, etc., and is usually constructed in a narrative form. This type of history gives the false illusion that there is one story and is what most students think of when they think of the discipline of history. However, according the Lévesque, history is very complex and has many stories based on evidence, continuity, change, and historical empathy. The Disciplinary history is based on procedural knowledge and requires critical thinking and the ability for students to read and use historical evidence. This type of procedural knowledge is not generally taught in schools and according to Lévesque, most of what is taught is a narrative type history, in which all the critical thinking and use of evidence has already been done. If students are taught slowly and persistently to think critically, or historically, they could cross the threshold to open up new ways of thinking and learning history.
2. In a lot of ways, Wineburg’s and Lévesque’s understanding of student learning are similar. Both feel that the traditional way of the teacher up in front of the room lecturing students, while the students are passive and absorbing, is the wrong method of teaching history. They both agree that the teachers should be a facilitator for the students and that there should be a two way flow of information between the students and teachers. They also both state that thinking historically is not something that is inherent or natural. I think where Wineburg separates from Lévesque is when he wrote about how people learning history read sources and historical evidence and insert their modern biases into them. People tend to do this because they have not been trained to think critically and analyze evidence. Inserting modern biases ultimately makes history relatable and feel familiar to the student. Wineburg states that history should feel strange. The consequence of placing modern biases into history is that not much is learned. Lévesque emphasizes the two types of historical knowledge and asserts that procedural knowledge is not being taught in school. History in school is taught as a narrative that appears to be one story, and proof of research and usage of historical evidence is hidden. He presents studies that illustrate how students need to be taught and exposed to the practice of thinking critically to investigate the past, which calls for a complete revamp of the method history is taught. Lévesque goes further than Wineburg does because he provides a plan on how to reexamine course planning and to allow students to hone their research and critical thinking skills. While Wineburg does acknowledge that history needs to be taught differently, he does not really provide any solutions on how to change it.
3. Lévesque greatly emphasizes experiential learning, which is a more hands on approach to doing history. He encourages students to research historical evidence, investigate, and make interpretations about history. He discourages reading and learning a single narrative or coming up with simple yes or no questions. By doing this, students are encouraged to think for themselves and analyze what they have read, which will ultimately lead to different conclusions being formed based on the historical evidence used. Students being led to draw diverse conclusions is a positive feature of this method of learning because it allows the students to achieve a deeper, long lasting level of historical thinking.


KelseyR said:

Hi Hannah,
In response to your first answer, you have a great understanding of how Lévesque describes threshold concepts and discusses student's difficulties in being able to "do history." This idea of history being taught in a specific type of narrative is frustrating because usually that narrative leaves out significant groups of the population. Since students are only being taught history from this type of narrative, they are being taught to ignore large groups of people that helped to shape that history. When I was in high school, our textbook did not even mention certain histories because they were not focused on white, European peoples. There is this idea in both history and art history that "the West" is the center of the world and therefore the only narrative that matters. As far as procedural knowledge goes, I was not taught to think critically or historically until I was in college doing my bachelor's degree. There is a major gap between what high school students are being taught and what college students are learning. There is this learning curve that generally discourages students from studying the humanities because they had never previously been taught how to think to understand those disciplines.