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Booth, Martin. “Cognition in History: A British Perspective.” Educational Psychologist 29(2) (1994): 61-9.


In this article, I trace the teaching of history in schools from the subject's establishment as a university discipline in the 1870s through the crisis in school history in the 1960s. A number of factors prompted this heart searching: the questioning of the heavy emphasis on British national history, the changing nature of the discipline, and the increasing emphasis on technical and scientific education. The response of history educators was profoundly influenced by the views of Bloom (1956) and his associates, with their concern for taxonomies of educational objectives, and of Bruner (1960), with his stress on the need for teachers and students to be clear about the underlying principles that give structure to the subject; these ideas provided the organizing structure for the main history curriculum development project of the 1970s, the Schools Council History 13-16 Project (SCHP). Research into children's historical thinking based on the Piagetian developmental framework, however, seems to suggest that the SCHP was setting itself impossible goals; children were not really able to construe history in the ways the project demanded much before the age of 16. More recent research, which has adopted a different methodology, has advanced a much more optimistic view and points to the potential of children for real historical thinking. I conclude by examining the recently imposed History National Curriculum and the extent to which its assessment arrangements are underpinned by research, and I speculate on the likely effects of the new regime on the teaching and learning of history in England and Wales.  

Educational Psychologist