The Challenge of Rethinking History Education : On Practices, Theories, and Policy book cover
1st Edition

The Challenge of Rethinking History Education
On Practices, Theories, and Policy

ISBN 9780415873796
Published July 6, 2010 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

Every few years in the United States, history teachers go through what some believe is an embarrassing national ritual. A representative group of students sit down to take a standardized U.S. history test, and the results show varied success. Sizable percentages of students score at or below a "basic" understanding of the country’s history. Pundits seize on these results to argue that not only are students woefully ignorant about history, but history teachers are simply not doing an adequate job teaching historical facts. The overly common practice of teaching history as a series of dates, memorizing the textbook, and taking notes on teachers’ lectures ensues.

In stark contrast, social studies educators like Bruce A. VanSledright argue instead for a more inquiry-oriented approach to history teaching and learning that fosters a sense of citizenship through the critical skills of historical investigation. Detailed case studies of exemplar teachers are included in this timely book to make visible, in an easily comprehensible way, the thought processes of skilled teachers. Each case is then unpacked further to clearly address the question of what history teachers need to know to teach in an investigative way. The Challenge of Rethinking History Education is a must read for anyone looking for a guide to both the theory and practice of what it means to teach historical thinking, to engage in investigative practice with students, and to increase students’ capacity to critically read and assess the nature of the complex culture in which they live.

Table of Contents


1. Seeking a More Potent Approach to Teaching History

2. On the Limits of Collective Memorialization and Persistent Instruction

3. The Case of Thomas Becker—Using Knowledge of History as a Domain to Structure Pedagogical Choices

4. Learning History—What Do Students Know and What Can they Do With That Knowledge?

5. Teaching About Indian Removal—Describing and Unpacking the Investigative Approach

6. Assessing Student Learning

7. Theorizing Investigative History Teaching

8. How Are History Teachers to Learn to Teach Using an Investigative Approach?

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Bruce A. VanSledright is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park.


"VanSledright (Univ. of Maryland, College Park) is a leading expert in the field of history education, and it shows....This book is the best single account of how to teach for historical thinking to date. It is written in straightforward, engaging prose without compromising depth and will be useful for history and education students and faculty at any level. Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"Bruce A. VanSledright’s The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories, and Policy is a powerful and ambitious model for teaching more intellectually demanding—and satisfying—history in schools…The structure is unique, intriguing, and (particularly for classroom practitioners) approachable… It is also the kind of work that a short review really cannot do justice and that merits a full reading. History education will benefit if the book soon sees service in teacher education methods courses and professional development programs."—Teachers College Record