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Wilson, Suzanne M. “Research on History Teaching.” In Handbook of Research on Teaching, 4th Edition, edited by Virginia Richardson, 524-44. Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association, 2001.


This chapter grounds its analysis on debates and conflicts centered on questions such as: What is history? What are the goals of history teaching? and What is truth?, as they have played out primarily in the United States. Wilson focuses on three questions to structure her discussion: What is traditional history teaching like? What are researchers learning about ‘accomplished’ history teaching? and What explains good teaching?

Wilson’s review of research on traditional history teaching reveals that teachers rarely engage their students on an intellectual level, that they rely too heavily on textbooks and present themselves as the “knowers,” and that there is insufficient focus on critical thinking and problem solving. However, as Wilson points out, the 1980s saw a surge in research on “good” history teaching focusing on “expert teachers” or “accomplished teachers.” From her review of this research Wilson outlines three themes that structure her discussion of research on teaching and learning history in the rest of the chapter. First, she notes that there are diverse methods for how one conducts this research ranging from surveys to ethnographies. Second, there is a range of definitions for what makes a “good” teacher and “good” teaching practices. Third, there also exists variation in how researchers conceptualize history.

Wilson narrows her review down to two categories: how researchers explain “good” teaching and research and how students learn history. In the first category she divides the research into two camps which focus on explaining good teaching through observing teaching practices and on explaining good teaching through exploring the influence of teachers’ knowledge of and beliefs about their practices. In the second category Wilson traces research on history learning by the age of the learner and factors that contribute to learning.

She ends with suggestions on how to develop and improve future research on history teaching and learning.

Ana Laura Pauchulo