The next history education SIG will be held on Wednesday 20th March from 5.30 – 7.00pm in Room 736.

Refreshments will be available from 5.00pm. All welcome!

Email  if you’re able to join us.


Title: Making sense of historical causation: students’ ideas about why things happen and the teacher’s attempt to make sense of those ideas


Speaker: Jo-Yun Huang, Doctoral student in history education, IOE


As E.H. Carr famously claimed, ‘the study of history is a study of causes’. Yet the process of explanation – or, more rigorously, the process of developing a causal argument – is a challenge for many students.


This study of students’ difficulties is based in an unusual context – an exploratory series of history lessons with 14-year old students in Taiwan, in which they were being introduced for the first time to an approach to history education that treats historical causation as a process of argument about the nature of the relationship between events in the past rather than a series of fixed claims to be learned. Drawing on the work that the students produced, videos of the lessons and regular feedback from questionnaires and interviews, this seminar focuses specifically on the difficulties that they encountered and the ways in which both they and the teacher (as an action researcher) responded to the problems that they perceived.


While the study highlights interesting comparisons between learning in different contexts, it also raises important questions about how a teacher acting as a researcher interprets students’ ideas:  how they negotiate the tension between evaluating students’ expressions in relation to their predefined objectives and seeking to understand how they have arisen and what they actually mean to the student.