Historical Thinking: Analyzing Student and Teacher Ability to Analyze Sources

Daniel Armond Cowgill II, Scott M. Waring


The purpose of this study was to partially replicate the Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Process Using Historical Evidence study conducted by Sam Wineburg in 1991. The Historical Problem Solving study conducted by Wineburg (1991) sought to compare the ability of historians and top level students, as they analyzed pictures and written documents centered on the Battle of Lexington Green. In this version of the study, rather than compare historians and students, we sought out to compare the analytical skills of teachers and students. The main findings relate to the fact that the participants lacked the ability to engage in the very complex activities associated with historical inquiry and the utilization of primary sources in learning about the past. This lack of ability should be used to improve teacher professional development programs and help them develop the skills needed to not only engage in historical evaluation themselves but to also develop skills that will allow them to instruct students to do the same.


Historical Literacy, Document Analysis, Teacher Education, Inquiry

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