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Panel Presentation/Communication: “What is the Shape and Place of Historical Thinking in High Schools?” 2009

Peter Seixas, Mark Perry, and Gerald Friesen
Association for Canadian Studies Conference, Québec City, QC

Presenters Peter Seixas (Professor and Canada Research Chair, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia), Mark Perry (high school history teacher, Fredericton, New Brunswick), and Gerald Friesen (Distinguished Professor of History, University of Manitoba), discuss the teaching of historical thinking in high schools and universities from their various perspectives. Peter Seixas poses a number of questions and asks: What kind of history program would enable students to be able to handle these kinds of questions in sophisticated ways? Mark Perry comments that almost everyone agrees that it is good idea to teach historical thinking. Even though it is a good idea, however, it is not being taught in high schools. He mentions that one obstacle has always been the need for a way of talking about historical thinking and suggests that Seixas’ Historical Thinking Project (formerly Benchmarks of Historical Thinking) offers a way of doing this. A second obstacle is that teachers come out of their university education with a linear historical model firmly in their minds. He suggests that teacher education programs have to engage students in creating the tasks of historical thinking, and provides several examples of work that his students have completed in a teacher education course he was teaching at the University of New Brunswick. Gerald Friesen emphasizes the importance of nurturing a sense of wonder in students. He provides an example of the assignments he uses in his university history courses, where he offers several opportunities for students to engage with primary sources. He believes that the same should be done in secondary schools, just on a smaller scale. Ultimately, these three presentations demonstrate that successful teaching approaches can be used at any level of study. The entire presentation, plus two questions for the panel posed by audience members, are contained in ten video clips.

1. What is the Shape and Place of Historical Thinking in High Schools? Introduction by Penney Clark

2. Peter Seixas: Introduction to Historical Thinking

3. Peter Seixas (2): Examples of Student Work

4. Peter Seixas (3): Final Student Examples and Discussion

5. Mark Perry: Bridging the Gap Between Historical Thinking and the Classroom

6. Mark Perry (2): Student Involvement

7. Gerald Friesen (1): The University History Classroom and Canadian History

8. Gerald Friesen (2): The University History Classroom and Canadian History

9. Questions to Panel (1)

10. Questions to Panel (2)