Lee, Peter, and Rosalyn Ashby. “Progression in Historical Understanding among Students Ages 7-14.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the British Educational Research Association, Liverpool, England, September 11, 1993.
This paper is a report on the progress of the “Concepts of History and Teacher Approaches 7 to 14” (CHATA) Project at stage one. While the project was divided into three stages, this paper focuses on the first stage and thus on the study of the progression of children’s ideas of historical inquiry and historical explanation. Data collection at this stage involved interviews and pencil-and-paper tests collected from over three hundred participants between the ages of seven and fourteen.
Generally, the researchers found that children who have a clear conceptualization of evidence can understand and use source material more efficiently and successfully than those children whose notions of evidence are limited to its definition as information. Specifically, there are six possible levels identified by the researchers that coincide with students’ understanding of evidence. In the first, “pictures of the past,” children view evidence as able to provide a direct link to the past and, consequently, the past and the present are not differentiated. In level two, “information,” students understand evidence as potential information and see the past as fixed and complete. In the third level, “testimony,” children understand that the discipline of history has a specific methodology with which to test the validity and reliability of testimony provided by people. In level four, “scissors and paste,” the past can be “put together” by joining the truth from “different reports.” In the fifth level, “evidence in isolation,” many things can stand as evidence and children recognize that history can be narrated even if no first-hand testimony survives. Finally in level six, “evidence in context,” evidence is critically examined to determine its contextual understanding and meaning depending on when and by whom it was produced