ERIC Number: ED367562
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993-Nov
History Is More than Story: Expanding the Boundaries of Elementary Learning.
Barton, Keith C.
Because students should not only know stories about the past, but also understand the interpretive nature of historians' work, this study sought to discover whether instruction can develop elementary students' ability to engage in some aspects of historical interpretation. The study focused on fifth grade students. The research consisted of direct observation of classroom instruction over the course of a 5-week unit, informal conversations with teacher and students, analysis of 24 student compositions produced during instruction, and 4 open ended interviews with focus groups of 4 students each. After participating in activities in which they took the perspectives of different groups of people in the past, students were able to explain how these groups understood events differently, as well as the way in which present day perspectives affect the way stories about the past are told. The ability of students in the class to engage in historical interpretation cannot be understood apart from the teacher's instructional activities. The instructor frequently presented information through short lectures, in which discussion was encouraged by asking students to draw inferences or conclusions about the motivations of groups or individuals. When presenting information, the teacher frequently mentioned the way in which opinions and perceptions differed. The students were highly skeptical toward the reliability of present day historical accounts, and demonstrated their understanding that there is no single story with a straightforward and unproblematic meaning. Students had little understanding, however, of the way in which historians use and evaluate primary sources in order to construct stories. (DK)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies (Nashville, TN, November 1993).