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Lee, Peter, and Rosalyn Ashby. “Progression in Historical Understanding among Students Ages 7-14." In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg, 199-222. New York: New York University Press, 2000.


The central objective of the project, “Concepts of History and Teaching Approaches 7-14” (Chata), was to examine how students’ ideas about history change over time. The study focused on second-order procedural understandings such as evidence and cause.

Three hundred and twenty students between the ages of seven and fourteen were asked to respond to task-sets on three different occasions addressing historical content from the English National Curriculum used in British schools. Follow-up interviews were conducted with one hundred and twenty students.

The authors found that students progress through six stages. First, students understand “the past as given” meaning that they understand all historical narratives as the same. Second, students believe that “the past is inaccessible” and that because they were not present in it they cannot know history. Third, students perceive “the past as determining stories” and that the historical information available determines the way in which the past will be narrated. Fourth, students believe that the way in which the past is reported is biased because of the authors’ subjective view of the past rather than because of a lack of information. Fifth, the past is understood as “selected and organized from a viewpoint”, meaning that because students believe that historians are biased differences in historical accounts are understood to be a result of selection. Lastly, “the past is (re-)constructed in answer to questions in accordance with criteria” and thus historical accounts will inevitably be different depending on who constructs them and to which questions they are responding.

Ana Laura Pauchulo