During my first-semester placement I was given the opportunity to plan and deliver a unit to year ten history students on the topic of rights and freedoms. Magic, right? This theme has it all, including an in-built means of connecting history to students’ own preoccupations and passions. I mean, one question on the test was: “design your own protest banner on a topic of your choice.”
See below for a detailed overview of the unit, submitted as part of my history teaching studies. Teachers, get in touch if you’d like any further info or individual lesson plans.
This unit of work follows the AusVELS curriculum’s “Rights and Freedoms” unit, Depth Study 2 of The Modern World and Australia, at Level 10 of The Humanities – History. “Students investigate struggles for human rights in depth. This will include how rights and freedoms have been ignored, demanded or achieved in Australia and in the broader world context.”
The length of the unit conforms to the curriculum model of the school at which I completed my placement. Here, history is a half-year elective at year 10 in which the whole sequence of the AusVELS curriculum (overview and three depth studies) is presented. With public holidays, exam scheduling, excursions and other special activities taken into account, this allows ten 75-minute lessons in which to complete each unit.
The design of the unit conforms to the outline defined by AusVELS, but also attends to the ongoing development and practice of the “unnatural act” of historical thinking (Wineburg, 2001). Taking seriously van Drie and van Boxtel’s suggestion that their framework of historical reasoning “provide a structure for the design of a curriculum and learning tasks” (2007, p. 105), the unit develops all six elements of historical reasoning within discrete learning actvities. For these researchers:
skilled historical reasoning can be described as reasoning which reflects contextualization or taking into account the historical period and setting, the use of substantive and meta-concepts to describe, compare, and explain historical phenomena, and sound argumentation based on a careful inspection and evaluation of available sources (2007, p. 105).
These techniques are applicable to the study of all historical topics and periods, but hold a particular value for the analysis of rights and freedoms, a theme which is itself a substantive historical concept that rewards analysis via the framework that van Drie and van Boxtel outline. This is history arranged thematically, drawing disparate elements together within a single field of reference – rich territory for the exercise of historical questioning, argumentation, using sources, contextualisation, and the use of historical concepts.
See below for a summary of each element of historical reasoning as it’s practiced within the unit. Examples of learning activities are provided within each element, with complete documents available on request.
1: The United Nations; the human rights movement after World War 2 (AusVELS ACDSEH023)
Audio source: “Four Freedoms” (Roosevelt, 1941)
2: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Ausvels ACDSEH023)
Written source: The Declaration (United Nations, 1948)
3: International movements for rights and freedoms (AusVELS overview material)
Primary sources from History 10: The Modern World and Australia (Ashton & Anderson, 2012)
5: The Stolen Generations (AusVELS ACDSEH104)
Written sources: Stories from Bringing Them Home (AHRC, 2007)
6: The 1965 Freedom Ride (AusVELS ACDESEH134)
Video source: Excerpts from Freedom Ride – Blood Brothers (Perkins, 1993)
7: Mabo and Native Title (ACDSEH106)
Primary and secondary sources from History 10: The Modern World and Australia (Ashton & Anderson, 2012)
8: The Reconciliation movement (AusVELS ACDSEH106)
Written source: Reconciliation timeline (Reconciliation Australia, 2011)
9: Unit overview and revision
Primary and secondary sources from History 10: The Modern World and Australia (Ashton & Anderson, 2012)
10: Source analysis test
PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK: HISTORICAL REASONING
1. ASKING HISTORICAL QUESTIONS
Historical questions are asked, evaluated and refined across the unit, including within the source analysis test where knowledge about “historical thinking” is assessed based on a series of questions devised by the student. The “five Ws” – who, what, when, where, why – are practiced at several points, including within the test, but often the focus is not on giving answers but on the questions themselves as the “engine” for historical reasoning (van Drie & van Boxtel, 2007).
Signature pedagogy: best questions.
In Lesson 4, students work in groups with visual and written sources about the Freedom Rides:
1. In your group, read letter aloud and answer the questions
2. In your group, develop five observations and three questions about the photograph
3. Choose your best question and be ready to share it with the class
4. Best questions are collected and assessed by the whole class – if we could ask only one question, what would it be, and why?
2. USING SOURCES
Throughout the unit, students practice “thinking historically” as outlined by van Sledright (2004), determining the nature of a source before using it for historical analysis. This four-step technique – identification; attribution; perspective judgment; reliability assessment – is practiced as a whole class [Lesson 4, using the provocative example of a video made by a six-year-old], in small groups [Lesson 6, using multiple textbook sources about the 1965 Freedom Ride] and individually, including during the source analysis test [Lesson 10].
The distinction made by Rouet and others (1996) between reasoning about and reasoning with documents is also taken into account. In Lesson 6, students practice van Sledright’s historical thinking on textbook sources [reasoning about], then use the same sources to complete textbook questions in which the sources are used as historical evidence [reasoning with].
Signature pedagogy: revising historically.
In Lesson 9, students revise the uni by working in groups with five historical sources [3.2, 3.12, 3.19, 3.28, 3.39 of their textbook (Ashton & Anderson, 2012)].
1. In your group, complete the revision sheet about your source. Be ready to present your findings to the class.
2. Group presentations: teacher to call on individual students to ask questions of each group.
The AusVELS curriculum itself works to contextualise this unit, placing it after a depth study on World War 2, out of which the modern human rights movement developed. Early lessons are devoted to drawing out this connection. At another level, international movements for rights and freedoms are studied as a context for the indigenous rights movement in Australia, which is presented alongside other movements with which it intersects: decolonisation, the women’s movement, and – most compellingly – the civil rights movement in the United States.
The chronological scope of the unit reaches the present, allowing activities that directly connect student experiences and concerns with the historical material that they study. In this way, the historical study undertaken by students provides a context for their own lives as informed citizens (even activists) in the present.
Signature pedagogy: jigsaw.
In Lesson 3, students work in groups to research and present one international movement for rights and freedoms, using extended excerpts from their textbooks – independence from colonial rule; Aboriginal land rights; the women’s movement, civil rights movement in the United States.
1. Jigsaw stage 1: in one of four groups, use source material to research one international movement
2. Complete one section of the answer sheet (two terms; two dates; two people; two demands), ready to share your findings with other members of the class
3. Jigsaw stage 2: in your new groups, speak for one minute about your movement, then verbally share answers with your classmates, completing all four sections of the answer sheet and answering any questions.
The unit can be seen as a history of argumentation, in which social values are debated and adjusted over time. This primary mode of argumentation is practiced by students in an activity in which they attempt to recruit their peers to imaginary but well-designed civil disobedience actions [Lesson 5].
Historical argumentation is also studied and practiced. Van Drie and van Boxtel describe this as “informal reasoning,” in which conclusions are “never definite, but only more or less probable, as new evidence can alter these probabilities” (2007, p. 97). Activities that exercise this skill include the final question on the source analysis test, in which students are asked to assess the historical significance of Kevin Rudd’s parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generations [Lesson 10].
Signature pedagogy: argument compass.
In Lesson 4, students consider the contention “that civil disobedience should be encouraged.”
1. Based on our study of civil disobedience and Rosa Parks, take a position on the issue: agree, disagree, neither/nor or different position.
2. Move to the side of the room indicated by the teacher that corresponds to your position.
3. Take part in a whole-class discussion in which students defend their positions and/or adjust their position based on new evidence presented by their peers.
4. USING SUBSTANTIVE CONCEPTS
The AusVELS curriculum structures the whole depth study around the substantive concepts of rights and freedoms. These are examples of Halldén’s colligatory concepts, which provide a thematic (rather than strictly chronological) organisation of historical knowledge (1997).
Other major substantive concepts within the unit include civil rights and the reconciliation movement. Activities encourage students to engage with seemingly disparate historical material using the language of an overarching theme.
Signature pedagogy: reconciliation timeline
In Lesson 8, students study a timeline of the reconciliation movement, which provides an overview of post-contact relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
1. Take a fragment of the timeline.
2. Move to the appropriate place in the timeline, arranging yourselves chronologically.
3. In chronological order, read your piece of the timeline.
4. Take part in a whole-class discussion about the timeline: what patterns are emerging? Where are the hot-spots? How does this timeline intersect with other historical patterns we’ve studied?
6. USING META-CONCEPTS
The methodological tools of history are studied and practiced across the unit. From Limón’s list – evidence, cause, explanation, empathy, time, space, change, source, fact, description and narration – evidence, empathy and change are especially pertinent to the study of rights and freedoms (2002). In addition, van Drie and van Boxtel’s emphasis on comparison as a heuristic allows students to read historical accounts alongside each other, separating extraordinary from common events (2007, p. 102). Meta-concepts related to source analysis are exercised within van Sledright’s model of historical thinking, described above.
Empathy is at its least contentious as a historical meta-concept when engaging with the study of the Stolen Generations. In the major written project for the unit, students are able to channel their historical understanding into an action plan that directly involves them in the reconciliation movement. This is supported by in-class activities that locate this contemporary movement within a historical context of change.
Signature pedagogy: placemat.
In Lesson 5, students read and summarise selected stories of survivors of the Stolen Generations from the Bringing Them Home Report.
1. Read one personal story from a victim of the Stolen Generations.
2. With others who read the same story, summarise the story in one or two sentences.
3. In new groups, with three others who have read other stories, write your summary sentence/s onto one edge of a four-sided placemat. Compare the language of the four sentences.
4. In the centre of the mat, draw together language and ideas from the four summaries and create a synthesising phrase, sentence or paragraph about the Stolen Generations.
Ashton, P., & Anderson, M. (2012). History 10 – The Modern World and Australia. South Yarra, Australia: Macmillan.
Australian Human Rights Commission. (1997). Stories from the Report. Bringing them home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/stories-report
Bruton, Bobby. (2012, February 27). Rosa Parks. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://youtu.be/naE1Bytu2Q0
Halldén, O. (1997). Conceptual change and the learning of history. International Journal of Educational Research, 27, 201-210.
Limón, M. (2002). Conceptual change in history. In M. Limón, & L. Mason (Eds.) Reconsidering conceptual change. Issues in theory and practice (pp. 259-289). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Perkins, R. (1993). Blood Brothers – Freedom Ride [excerpts]. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://aso.gov.au/titles/documentaries/freedom-ride-blood-brothers/
Reconciliation Australia. (2011). Reconciliation Timeline. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.reconciliation.org.au/getfile?id=1328&file=1153+04+Timeline.pdf
Roosevelt, F. D. (1941). Four Freedoms [excerpt]. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/four_freedoms/four_freedoms.html
Rouet, J. F., Brit, M. A., Mason, R. A., & Perfetti, C. A. (1996). Using multiple sources of evidence to reason about history. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(3), 478-493.
United Nations. (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
Van Drie, J. & van Boxtel, C. (2007). Historical reasoning: Towards a Framework for Analyzing Students’ Reasoning about the Past. Educational Psychology Review, 20, 87–110.
Van Sledright, B. A. (2004). What does it mean to think historically … and how do you teach it? Social Education, 68(3), 230–233.
Wineburg, S. S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts. Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Yale University. (2008). TAH Lesson Plan: Freedom Riders. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.yale.edu/glc/aces2/lessons/montanaro.pdf