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Perfetti, C. A., M.A. Britt, J-F. Rouet, M.C. Georgi, and  R.A. Mason. “How Students Use Texts to Learn and Reason about Historical Uncertainty.” In Cognitive and Instructional Processes in History and The Social Sciences, edited by J. F. Voss & M. Carretero, 257-83. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1994.


This chapter is grounded on the notion that learning history is more than just learning a story, it is also learning the interpretive skills required for historical analysis. The authors used a system of causal analysis to study history learning, which assumes that causal structures used by learners represent their knowledge rather than guide comprehension, and that these structures can be used to assess what has been learned.

The chapter summarizes two studies previously conducted examining how American college and high school students learn and understand the cause of the United States’ acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone. The authors conclude that students learn history as a set of stories understood in terms of temporal-causal structures. Further, students acknowledged that history is a matter of interpreting an array of documents. Thus, students of all ages (although to varying degrees) should learn to interpret, explain, and argue the texts and stories that they learn from.

Ana Laura Pauchulo