Visual Sources in the Teaching and Learning of History

30th June 2021, 5-7pm British Summer Time (6-8pm CET)

Dr Tom Haward, UCL Centre for Holocaust Education, University College London

The idea that our emerging global society is also the age of the ‘pictorial turn’ is one in which the use of visual historical sources in the teaching and learning of History in English secondary schools is situated. Yet there has been little research conducted into the ways such sources are experienced by teachers and students in the classroom, and the ways these are mediated by political, cultural and social forces. Despite this, the need for further investigation is highlighted by a number of theorists who believe how working with visual images has the potential to develop visual ways of thinking both historically and about the world that are complicated, requiring what some see as quite specific ‘thinking dispositions’. This session responds to this call by exploring the ways in which visual historical sources are experienced by teachers, students and education professionals. It is based on qualitative research conducted with secondary school History students, their teachers and educational professionals working with visual sources in museum and gallery spaces.

This seminar is free and open to all and will be conducted via Zoom. To register, please follow this link


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“Epistemic Bottlenecks” in Primary History: Can local instruction theories challenge what young children believe about history?

27th May 2021, 17-19:00 BST

Dr Caitriona Ni Cassaithe, Dublin City University

In recent decades the teaching of history has moved towards a disciplinary approach which favours historical thinking as a means to achieve historical understanding. (Seixas, 2018). Reflecting this shift, many primary history curricula now pay particular attention to the development of the historical thinking skills needed to engage in a critical interpretation of the past. Central to the development of such thinking skills, however, is a conceptual understanding of the nature of history and historical knowledge. Cognitive research on students’ historical thinking has shown that they often hold misconceptions about the nature of history (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 1999) and some of these misconceptions can even act as ‘bottlenecks’ (Middendorf & Pace) to impede children’s conceptual understanding. Many of these misconceptions relate to children’s ideas about knowledge and knowing and are, therefore, epistemic in nature. These “epistemic bottlenecks” (Ní Cassaithe, 2020), just like a bottleneck on the road, can slow down children’s ability to think historically which, in turn, impacts on their ability to “do history”. Identifying and challenging the ‘epistemic bottlenecks’ that underpin children’s conceptualisations of the discipline is, therefore, both necessary and important.

In this session I will report on an investigation into Irish primary children’s beliefs about history and will discuss the design and testing of a local instruction theory to challenge those beliefs that acted as epistemic bottlenecks.

The workshop is free and open to all. Full details and registration details are at this link.

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‘No history is pretty.’ What do students want from a history curriculum?

13th May 2021, 16:30-18:00 BST

Julia Huber, Dr Alison Kitson and Oliver Morgan

Continuing our focus on curriculum planning, this workshop shares the findings of research into the impact of ethnicity on the way students understand British history and considers the practical implications of this for the design of history curricula in schools. How much impact does ethnicity have on the way students respond to history, what do they think about the history we choose to teach and how can we capture and respond to these views in school? The workshop is led by Julia Huber, joint Teach First history lead at IOE, and Alison Kitson, joint subject leader for the history PGCE at IOE. Also joining them is Oliver Morgan, a current head of department, who will share his experiences of adapting and applying some of our ideas in practice and how this has shaped his curriculum thinking. The workshop will be of interest to anyone interested in history curricula in schools, the role and purpose of history (including British history), the need to diversify the curriculum and the extent to which curricula should respond to local needs.

This workshop is free and open to all. To register, please follow this link


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Teachers as transformation agents: what is the role of teachers in transforming their discipline into a school subject?

28 April, 2021, 5-7pm GMT

Dr Alison Kitson, UCL Institute of Education

This seminar shares research into the practice of three expert teachers with a particular focus on the kinds of knowledge they draw on in their practice and the extent of their role in transforming disciplinary knowledge into school subjects. The teachers in the research taught history, geography or physics and the session will explore the distinctiveness of their knowledge, both disciplinary and professional, as a way of understanding the particular role and needs of subject teachers, particularly in history. This session will be especially relevant to those interested in teacher knowledge, expert teaching, subject specialism and the role of history within the school curriculum.

The seminar is free and open to all. To register, follow this link.

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What is School History For? Problems and possibilities – web lecture and discussion

University of Oulu, Centre for Philosophical Studies of History, 25th March 2-4pm GMT, Online.

Dr Arthur Chapman, UCL Institute of Education

This talk will explore a number of possible answers to the question of the aims and purposes of school history, thinking at the intersection of the theory of history and curriculum studies. Chapman’s presentation will develop the proposition that school history has a vital role to play in the lives of pupils and argue that we need to broaden the scope and form of history education beyond the ‘disciplinary’ approaches that are conventional in many contexts around the world. Chapman’s contention will be that the school history should pay closer attention to contemporary theory of history to realize its power and potential.

Further information is at this link:

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Historical Thinking and Early Years children: How archaeology and archaeological sources can guide the introduction of historical reasoning

Wed, 24 March 2021 17:00-19:00 GMT

Dr Laura Arias-Ferrer, University of Murcia, Spain

There is an increasing awareness that young children are able to develop some historical knowledge and skills (De Groot-Reuvekamp, Van Boxtel, & Harnett, 2014). This is what Cooper (2002, p. 39) describes as ‘embryonic historical thinking’, based on the emergent abilities that children show when they analyse, compare, and interact with specific sources, share their ideas and/or construct interpretations about the past. Some other studies show their ability to recognize perspective or understand multi-causality (Levstik, 2013). This seminar will focus on the results to two studies conducted with 4 and 5 year old students that aim to explore this proposition and to develop the hypothesis that the gradual introduction of carefully crafted analytical exercises might better scaffold children’s emergent historical thinking than the more common unstructured approach that history usually receives in early childhood settings.

The event is free and open to all. To register, click this link.

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Three approaches to revising your Key Stage 3 curriculum

Thursday, 11 March 2021, 16:00 – 17:30 GMT

Chaired by Dr Michael Riley and Dr Alison Kitson

This workshop offers the opportunity to hear how three history departments have revised their key stage three curricula.

There has been much emphasis on curriculum planning of late, whether in response to calls to diversify the curriculum, the demands of GCSE or to broader discussions about knowledge and progression. As a result, many schools are in the process of revising their key stage three curricula. In this workshop, three history departments across London will share their different insights into the process of revising their curricula and the outcomes in each case. All three offer thoughtful and interesting examples to inspire you, whether you are about to embark on a curriculum review or are close to finishing. The event will be co-hosted by Michael Riley and Alison Kitson and there will be plenty of opportunities for questions.

The event is free and open to all. Register at this link:


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Knowing History in Schools: Powerful Knowledge and the Powers of Knowledge – Book Launch Symposium

24th February, 5-7pm GMT, Zoom

This symposium launches the open access UCL Press book Knowing History in Schools: Powerful knoweldge and the powers of teaching. Three contributors to the book will contribute short presentations on the arguments of the book. Three respondents, not involved in the book, will then contribute responses to the book, and we will then open up the symposium for questions to the panel, via chat.

The event is free and open to all. Places can be booked here.

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Teaching about the British Empire

Dr Michael Riley, UCL Institute of Education

4th February 2021, 16:00 – 17:30 GMT

The time is long overdue for a more elevated public discourse in relation to Britain’s imperial past. History teachers have a vital role to play in this by ensuring that pupils learn about the British Empire in the context of academically-rigorous and motivating history lessons. Michael’s workshop will share some important principles for teaching about the British Empire. He will focus on the ways in which four fascinating sources (all accessible from the British Museum) could be used as part of rich enquiries that develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the complexity and diversity of the British Empire at different points in time.

Free event. All welcome. Register:

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Teaching history to Students of Colour/Color in the United Kingdom and the United States

Dr Kay Traille, Kennesaw State University

27th January, 5-7pm GMT Online.

Why do some Black students in the United Kingdom and African American Students in the United States find history lessons difficult or not worth studying?

Further details of this free seminar and a registration link can be found here:

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