Progression in History KS2-5: Implementation


Our second post ended with some ideas about how teachers might use the Hallmarks. This final post in the series turns to the very practical matter of starting to implement some of these ideas into your departmental planning.

STOP! Before we go any further, we are re-copying the ‘health warning’ again…

“Before we begin it is vital to note that this model is not designed to act as a series of standalone targets, or hoops to jump through. Neither is it designed to become a set of targets or a means of quantifying lesson to lesson progress. For more on why we see this as problematic, see these blogs on the issues with exam-style and linear progression models, as well as a broader critique HERE.”

OK, having given that vital reminder, let’s turn our attention to implementation.

Using the hallmarks to plan rigorous enquiry questions to shape lesson sequences

As Year 11 sit the first of the new GCSE specification exams, history teachers will be thinking about departmental planning for the future. It may be that your department needs to revisit A level / GCSE reflecting on the experience of the second and first round of public exams. It may be that your Key Stage 3 is much in need of attention after the focus on exam courses of the last few years. It may be that your are working with primary colleagues.  To quote @apf102 on @Twitter on 28th Jan 2018:

A clear enquiry provides the core for historical learning. The question shapes the approach, gives meaning to content, and strengthens memory through complex thinking. Above all, it shows the puzzle at the heart of the discipline.

It is time well spent to plan and refine excellent enquiry questions as a team. The best enquiry questions are clearly concept focused, cover aspects of genuine historical debate and are not planned in isolation from each other, to ensure that students are able to make progress in their historical thinking.

A good enquiry questions might include:

  • Why is it so difficult to know why Warwick rebelled against Edward IV? (an evidential focus)
  • Why do people disagree so much about Oliver Cromwell? (an interpretations focus)
  • What was the impact of World War One on British people? (a consequences focus)
  • How should we tell the story of the struggle for equal rights in Britain? (an implicit change/causes focus)

It is not good practice to adopt exam style questions as enquiry questions, they tend to be too narrow in focus. Questions such as ‘Was King John a good or a bad king?’ or ‘Was the Treaty of Versailles fair?’ are moral rather than historical. Of course, avoiding questions that lead to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is also important. For more help see the article here by Jamie Byrom: TH_Curriculum_Supplement

Identify areas where many students are struggling to show expertise in a topic area

Effective departments also spend time together thinking about the learning blocks or misconceptions that they keep seeing in their learners. @ZoeAnnHowells wrote a useful post here on this: It might be that students see causes as inevitable, or that they think there is one true source, or … well, so many things. However, once you have identified the misconception, there may well be someone who has already produced some practical solutions to help. The onebighistorydepartment website is excellent for this. So too is and also

Comment specifically on marked work and give advice on improvement

Useful department time can also be spent in conversation about pithy, student-friendly, history-specific phrases that can be used when marking. None of us are new teachers in our department, and we still find it hard to make sure that every comment on a child’s book is really focused on getting better at doing history. So, ‘well-written paragraph’ needs replacing with ‘clear TS* developed with evidence’ (*our students know TS is topic sentence!) and ‘more detail needed’ is replaced with ‘so what?’. When writing mark schemes for assessment questions there is very useful advice here from Michael Fordham: TH_Curriculum_Supplement. Generic markschemes won’t help students make progress in the same way.

Target questioning in lessons to ascertain students’ grasp of particular conceptual ideas in a specific topic.

Having identified the misconceptions, we talk about what sort of questions and questioning will help us to assess students’ progress. Alongside the hallmarks, your department could read this short article on move_me_on_questioning, to inform a discussion about good questioning.

And finally…

There is so much good advice and there are so many great resources for history teachers. We are really quite spoilt for choice and it can seem overwhelming. What we would say after reading a series such as this, is “start with ‘My one thing!'” That is, commit to taking one thing, plan its implementation, try it out and decide when to review its impact.

That concludes our four-post series on progession. If you would like to leave a comment, please do feel free to do so below, or via Twitter. For the previous blogs in this series, please see the three posts HERE, HERE and HERE.

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