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Wineburg, Sam. “Making Historical Sense”. In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas and Sam Wineburg, 306-25. New York: New York University Press, 2000.


Unlike many studies which examine what students do not know about history, Wineburg focuses on what students do know about the past and what knowledge they bring to the classroom. Specifically, Wineburg asks: “What sources beyond teachers and textbooks contribute to their understanding? How do young people navigate between images of the past learned in the home and those encountered in school? How do they situate their own personal histories in the context of national and world history?”

In this chapter, Wineburg draws primarily from a longitudinal study he conducted with fifteen adolescents who attended three different high schools situated in neighbourhoods of various socioeconomic status in the United States. Primarily, the focus of this study was on understanding how these students conceptualized their own pasts including their family and neighbourhood histories.

Generally, Wineburg found that what students choose to remember and forget is a process shaped by public commemorations of key historical events and the media including film and literature. Thus, the author maintains that teachers should work to understand how it is that information that adolescents receive and retain in their daily lives inform their historical consciousness and how they can bring this information into the classroom to foster a critical conception of history.

Ana Laura Pauchulo