Textbooks are ubiquitous in history education. In many countries and jurisdictions, there is only one authorized textbook for each subject and grade. This means that educators must concentrate on teaching content and that students must memorize this content. There is a famous adage uttered by a French school inspector, who is reported as boasting that on any given day, he knew exactly what page each student in the country was reading. Outside of emphasizing ‘passive’ forms of learning (rote memorization, examination), the practice is problematic because textbooks are notoriously superficial, narrow, and banal.
In Canada, the practice of authorizing a single textbook for subjects like history has been challenged since the early 1930s. In Ontario, Duncan McArthur, who served as Minister of Education from 1937-1942, changed educational policy by asking teachers and students to pursue a more constructivist approach to teaching. Knowledge is bigger than textbooks. The success of this policy over time is debatable, but history and social studies curricula across Canada are in the midst of a revolution, emphasizing historical thinking habits in addition to historical content. Key to this revolution is a need to work with primary sources of various kinds.
This resource packs catalogued here are developed by teacher candidates at Queen’s University in the Faculty of Education under the supervision of Dr. Theodore Christou. They are amongst the first resources to respond to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s requirements that history education concentrate on inquiry and on primary sources. Each lesson within the resources packs has at its core one or two primary sources, as well as Black Line Masters to facilitate instruction. Further, each lesson concentrates on one historical thinking concept. There are four historical thinking concepts entrenched in Ontario’s History and Social Studies curricula – continuity and change, cause and consequence, perspectives, and significance – and we add two more, following from the seminal work of Dr. Peter Seixas at the University of British Columbia: evidence, and ethical dimensions. We have also integrated themes of story-telling, revising resources developed by Dr. Kieran Egan and the team of researchers in the Imaginative Education Research Group at Simon Fraser University.
In sum, these resource packs will be useful to history educators looking to concentrate on historical inquiry, historical thinking, and imaginative history education, while engaging students with primary sources. We want students to do history, not merely to memorize it.
These resources are available to the community of history educators in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally. We welcome your feedback. Queries may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images courtesy of Creating Canada Image Bank.
Multiculturalism in Canada
The changing role of women during WW2.