Bermúdez, A., and R. Jaramillo. “Development of Historical Explanation in Children, Adolescents and Adults.” In International Review of History Education, Vol. 3: Raising Standards in History Education, edited by Alaric Dickinson, Peter Gordon, and Peter Lee, 146-67. Portland, Oregon: Woburn Press, 2001.
Exploring the relationship between historical agents and contexts in students’ explanations of historical events, this research aims to broaden knowledge of the qualitative changes in students’ understanding of history. Thirty clinical interviews were conducted with students at elementary and secondary levels, the university level, and three expert historians whose responses were used to create “ideal types.” All were interviewed about the national independence of Columbia, therefore exposing the theoretical models underlying students’ historical understandings and explanations of Columbia’s independence. A progression model was developed to describe developments in the quality of students’ explanations at five levels, with students classified at five levels, with the fifth corresponding to the level of expert historians.
The research concludes that historical thought in students does not evolve from an explanation exclusively centered on the role of historical agents; rather two types of factors, Historical Agents and Explanation of Historical Events, are present in explanations of history at every level as both become progressively more articulated, complex and differentiated. The ability to produce non-centered explanations that reach outside the role of Historical Agents depends to a large extent on the ability to engage in a self-critical stance to develop historical thought and social intelligence. By confronting social reality from a perspective of critical reflection, social intelligence allows students to understand social situations in a systematic and dynamic way and to recognize that individual decisions and actions integrate social and personal interests and purposes.