Historical Knowledge: Cognitive and Instructional Implications
Mario Carretero, Liliana Jacott, Margarita Limón, Asunción López-Manjón, and Jose A. León Autonoma University of Madrid
Early in this century two very influential authors in psychology and education were interested in how history was taught and understood in schools. They considered the topic of introducing historical content in elementary school. One of them, Dewey ( 1915), wrote:
Whatever history may be for the scientific historian, for the educator it must be an indirect sociology-a study of society which lays bare its process of becoming and its modes of organization . . . history must be presented, not as an accumulation of results, a mere statement of what happened, but as a forceful, acting thing. The motives -- that is, the motors -- must stand out. To study history is not to amass information but to use information in constructing a vivid picture of how and why men did thus and so; achieved their successes and came to their failures. (p. 151)
Thus, it appears clear that Dewey was in favor of teaching meaningful historical content, and because of this he advocated presenting social content as an introduction to historical content. His brief but insightful paper also included some thoughts about what type of specific social and historical topics would be especially appropriate for elementary education.
For his part, Piaget ( 1933) also considered some children's conceptions about history using his insightful version of the clinical method. His conclusions provided empirical support for Dewey's position, showing that elementary school children have a very simple representation of basic historical notions.
More recent research into the relationship between cognitive development