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Ashby, Rosalyn. “Developing a Concept of Historical Evidence: Students’ Ideas about Testing Singular Factual Claims.” International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research 4, no. 2 (2004)


This paper discusses research evidence from Project Chata (Concepts of History and Teaching Approaches) bearing on students’ understandings of the nature and status of different kinds of historical claims. It provides a detailed analysis of pupil responses to two specific questions, designed to explore one aspect of children’s concept of historical evidence. The paper provides example responses to these questions as a means of highlighting the key ideas that children appear to be working with in the context of this task. A total of 320 children from Year 3, Year 6, Year 7, and Year 9, across three primary and six secondary schools, make up the research sample. The paper relates the range of ideas apparent in the sample to the different age groups and these findings suggest that the majority of students from all age groups treat historical claims as if they were matters to be directly tested by an appeal to authority, or by identifying a link between the subject matter of the claim and material the past has left behind. However, these findings also demonstrate that some children were able to make important distinctions between the claims made by different singular factual statements, and to raise questions about the status of those claims. For these children there was a clear recognition that a test suitable for one kind of claim.