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“What Happened Needs to Be Told”: Fostering Critical Historical Reasoning in the Classroom
Cognition and Instruction (2015)
  • Eric B. Freedman, Sacred Heart University
Scholars often define historical reasoning as constructing defensible interpretations of past events. Drawing on critical theory, this article suggests that it also entails consciously framing one's topic of inquiry. The article examines an instructional unit that aimed to foster this expanded view of historiography. Forty students, ages 14–15, wrote histories of the Vietnam War from 12 primary accounts and compared their depictions to that of their textbook. After participating in the unit, students found the textbook factually accurate yet biased in its pattern of emphasis and omission, a conclusion that aligned with the unit's goal of helping them distinguish empirical integrity from interpretive frame. However, whereas critical theorists view all scholarship as partially subjective, the students sought to achieve objectivity by including “both sides” in their histories. The study suggests that educators should highlight the numerous dilemmas historians face, from framing their topic to selecting and analyzing evidence.
  • History,
  • Study and teaching,
  • High school students
Publication Date
Citation Information
Freedman, E.B. “What happened needs to be told”: Fostering critical historical reasoning in the classroom. Cognition and Instruction, 33(4), 357-398. doi: 10.1080/07370008.2015.1101465