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Sandwell, Ruth. “Reading Beyond Bias: Teaching Historical Practice to Secondary School Students.” McGill Journal of Education 38(1) (2003): 168-86.


Social studies and history teachers have, in recent years, taken up with enthusiasm the use of "real" historical documents, (primary sources) in elementary and secondary classrooms across North America. Such documents have an immediacy, and often a personal element, that is more interesting to students than the history found in the average textbook. This paper argues, however, that the pedagogical promise of primary documents is too often limited to a superficial appeal, and the potential of primary documents to stimulate either critical thinking or deeper learning about the past is limited to an analysis of "bias." Beginning with a quick overview of the remarkable potential of primary documents in history education, the paper goes on to provide some practical examples of how teachers can most effectively use them in the classroom.