Cognitive and Instructional Processes in History and the Social Sciences

By Mario Carretero; James F. Voss | Go to book overview

documents in the introductory courses, there is a clear expectation that students should gain competence in interpretation, explanation, and argument with whatever texts make up instruction. The lack of such emphasis in grade school history and even in high school history stands in contrast.

The question is whether such a division of cognitive labor is warranted by cognitive constraints, instructional resources, or both. The answer may prove to be complex. We suspect there is nothing in principle to prevent a document-based interpretation approach to history even in middle school -- that is, so long as specific targets of breadth of coverage are relaxed. On the other hand, there are some constraints to deal with, including the demands that documents make on reading skill, domain knowledge, and a nondomain reasoning skill, based on something like "rules of evidence," that has quite general application in education.

Although we think there is a fairly general skill that underpins the ability to appreciate the role of evidence across domains, we suspect it is a skill fostered initially in some specific domain. Of course, domain-specificity versus generality is a complex issue, and we leave it at that -- except to suggest that there is little specifically historical about realizing that evidence counts and that some kinds count more than others. How to explain such an ability short of an appeal to general scholarship-based education is a challenge. Whatever it is, there is no reason not to expect our history instruction to include it at least in secondary education. The obvious strategy is to take advantage of the superior position of story learning and to supplement it with complexity as early as possible.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The research reported in this chapter was primarily supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. Additional funding was also provided by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), United States Department of Education to the Center for Student Learning, Learning Research and Development Center. The opinions "pressed do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Mellon Foundation or OERI and no official endorsement should be inferred.


REFERENCES

Black J. B., & Bower O. H. ( 1979). Episodes as chunks in narrative memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 18, 309-318.

Britt M. A., Rouet J.-F., Georgi M. C., & Perfetti C. A. ( 1994). Learning from history texts: From causal analysis to argument analysis. In G. Leinhardt, I. L. Beck, & C. Stainton (Eds.), Teaching and learning in history (pp. 47-84). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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