AdrienneW's Response

1. “Threshold concepts” are integral ideas students need in order to successfully grasp an understanding of a discipline. Often these concepts are so habitual to experts in their field that they fail to teach these concepts to their students. In The Nature of History and Thinking, Stephane Levesque speaks to the fact that typically students learn through substantive lessons alone in the form of lectures, and didactic textbooks yet procedural knowledge is essential for critical investigation, engagement, debate, and ultimately sophisticated reasoning. While Levesque describes the limitations of teaching with substantive content alone, and the importance of procedural knowledge, he makes the point that substantive content is a “threshold concept” that is foundational for students. Procedures and concepts both must be taught in order for students to become sophisticated historical thinkers. Students must have a reasonable understanding of the subject matter before they can make inquiries in to the research.

2. Levesque and Wineburg share similarities in their understanding of student learning but stress different issues. Both see the current method of teaching history in a narrative format with the student as a passive observer as problematic and believe that the teaching paradigm needs to change to encourage critical thinking. To both the cultivation of historical empathy is crucial. The goal is to help teachers to teach students to think critically. For Wineburg, students are hindered by preconceived notions, a failure to ask questions and a modern viewpoint which prevents the cultivation of historical empathy. Levesque’s has observed that students need to understand procedural concepts which can help 21st century students think critically inside and outside the classroom.

Teachers should be coaches and facilitators rather than lecturers and entertainers. Experiential learning will create better historians and historical thinkers. As the sports analogy given by the Canadian historian Chad Gaffield describes, students must practice the game as well as learning the rules and concepts. Levesque states that, “Without procedural thinking, students are left passively absorbing the narratives and viewpoints of authorites…” (pg 17) Students must practice history as well as understanding how history is constructed.


MeghanE said:

I agree with your assessment that Levesque sees students learning as limited when it comes to procedural concepts. I thought it was interesting how he is more experimental, yet not in the sense of a performance like when he references Dead Poets Society. My analysis of both readings lead me to believe that Wineburg was the more experimental theorist. However, after reading your response I can more clearly see that Levesque's notions of student learning are rooted in conceptual analysis rather than Wineburg's ideas of question/answer seeking; which in itself tends to be more rigorous.