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Booth, Martin. “Ages and Concepts: A Critique of the Piagetian Approach to History Teaching." In The History Curriculum for Teachers, edited by C. Portal, 22-38. London: The Falmer Press, 1987.


The author argues that the focus on Jean Piaget’s theories to understand young children’s learning has had a restricting effect on history teaching and history educators’ understanding of children’s history learning. Booth argues that research based on Piagetian theories focuses on history as “a kind of abstract pattern” thus precluding the possibility of understanding the role of empathy in history learning and teaching.

Drawing from research “which gives a more optimistic view” of history Booth primarily cites two studies: a longitudinal study concerned with students in England eleven to sixteen years of age and a study conducted with eleven year old students also in England. In the first study, the authors found that students’ ability to move beyond generalizations about certain historical situations was due to teachers’ focus on the development of conceptual understanding and historical reasoning. Similarly the second study noted students’ increased ability to think critically about the past as a consequence of teaching practices.

To conclude, Booth outlines the use of source material, role play, and speculative discussion as the basic ingredients necessary for history teachers to set up a learning environment in which history can be an engaging and a rewarding subject for all children.

Ana Laura Pauchulo