Cooper, Hilary. The Teaching of History. London: David Fulton, 1992.
This six chapter book is centered on providing primary school teachers in Britain with suggestions on how to teach history. These suggestions are grounded in a theoretical discussion of the nature of historical thinking in chapters one and two, the structure of the National Curriculum for History and ideas for how to integrate history education in a balanced manner in chapter three, case studies illustrating how to plan units in chapter four, a description of workshops in which teachers and students developed their own conceptualizations of historical understanding in chapter five, and analysis of observations of a classroom teacher in chapter six.
Chapter one begins with a criticism of the limited focus on developing students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills in history teaching. Cooper argues that to learn history young children need to understand historians’ process of inquiry for studying historical events. Children cannot properly learn history without first learning that historians’ accounts of the past differ and why these differences occur. These arguments are complemented by a discussion in chapter two on theories of cognitive development in relation to how children make historical inferences; how children develop empathy, historical empathy and historical imagination; and how children develop their understanding of historical concepts and use these concepts.
In chapter three Cooper begins with a detailed description of the National Curriculum for History. Here she argues that history should form the basis of an integrated curriculum at least for one term each year and thus maintains that, like other subjects, history can be understood as an umbrella discipline. She therefore provides detailed suggestions for how other disciplines such as math, language, science, art, technology, geography and religious education can be related to historical content. Cooper also provides suggestions for how to fulfill the key stages that teachers are asked to attend to within the National Curriculum.
The focus of chapter four is four case studies that describe how teachers included history as part of integrated curriculum with students ranging from five to eleven years of age. Similarly, in chapter five Cooper describes three workshops which aimed to develop teachers’ confidence in teaching history in primary schools. The objective of this discussion is to provide teachers with ideas on how to improve their own confidence in the classroom. In line with the preceding two chapters Cooper ends her book with a description of a teacher’s attempt to work with the National Curriculum guidelines in her classroom and concludes that the success of the National Curriculum depends on teachers’ enthusiasm and confidence in teaching history.