History Slam Episode Thirty-Six: Historical Thinking and Teaching History

By Sean Graham

As part of Active History’s Historical Thinking Week, the History Slam Podcast looked into how history is taught in high school. To do this, I traveled to an Ontario high school and spoke with both students and teachers about the challenges of teaching history in 2014 and some of the strategies used to get students interested in the past. While everyone had different opinions on what worked and what didn’t, there was unanimity on one point: the material must be presented in an engaging manner.

In the first part of this three-part episode, I talk with a grade 10 student about her changing perception of history. That is followed by my chat with a grade 12 student who is interested in teaching history as a career. The final part features my conversation with two teachers about teaching history, the methods they use in their classes, and the barriers to reaching students. We also discuss the content vs. skills debate and the pros and cons of digital tools in the classroom.

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.

This week ActiveHistory.ca is running a series of 11 essays marking the end of the Historical Thinking Project. Click here to see a list of all the papers published during this theme week.

3 thoughts on “History Slam Episode Thirty-Six: Historical Thinking and Teaching History

  1. Maureen

    Sean .. history in Ontario high school is not necessarily the way it is played out in all of Canada.
    Maybe it would be good to hear from other provincial jurisdictions.

  2. Sean Graham Post author

    Thanks for the comment Maureen! I tried to avoid discussion of curriculum/admin as much as possible so as to not make it too Ontario-centric. My take away from the conversations was that history plays out differently even in the school up the road from the one I visited. If no two classes are the same – regardless if they fall under the same provincial jurisdiction – it’s up to individual teachers to find the best way to reach the group of students sitting in their class. We certainly did touch on things that were specific to Ontario (the age of students when they take Canadian history), but I think the overall theme could be a starting point of a discussion that is applicable to classrooms across the country.

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