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Do Primary History Books Show a Concern for Explanatory Understanding?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Anthony Blake, Professor Douglas Newton


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This article explores the extent to which books covering history topics identified by the National Curriculum available for use by the teacher in Key Stage 2 (children aged 7-11 years) demonstrate a concern for explanatory understanding. Following a discussion about the meaning and importance of understanding in history and the classification of possible alternative conceptions held by young children identified by researchers, forty-three history books available to the Key Stage 2 teacher were analysed in terms of the types of verbal structures of exposition they employed. Results suggested a concern more with descriptive than explanatory understanding. Teachers seeking to support children’s explanatory understanding in history are advised to be more selective in their choice of text and consider the use of alternative or additional strategies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Blake A; Newton DP; Newton LD; Brown K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Westminster Studies in Education

Year: 2003

Volume: 26

Issue: 2

Pages: 149-159

ISSN (print): 0140-6728

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1359

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/01406720310001629783

Notes: Texts relating to children’s knowledge and understanding of history are popular in the primary classroom, but little systematic analysis has been carried out on the types of understanding they promote in this knowledge domain and how effectively they support such understandings. This study provides a mechanism for teachers to use in selecting history texts for the classroom.


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