History textbooks designed for 'minimal attention spans'

History textbooks rely too heavily on magazine-style bite-sized chunks of text, designed for the “supposedly minimal attention spans” of today’s pupils, a prominent history teacher has said.

Writing in the latest issue of TES, Robert Peal, history teacher at the West London Free School and author of Progressively Worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools, believes that today’s students are being deprived of serious historical storytelling that was prevalent from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

Too often textbooks relied on the style of the Horrible Histories series to explain the past rather than the more “lively narrative” found in the Ladybird series Adventures from History or the work of the children’s historian RJ Unstead.

“An ongoing issue I have with the key stage 3 history textbooks is their lack of extended narrative. You would be hard pushed to find a stretch of more than 200 words that is not broken by a cartoon, a snippet of ‘source material’ or a ‘funny fact’,” Mr Peal writes.

“The layout often resembles a magazine, not a book, with short chunks of boxed text designed to cater to the supposedly minimal attention spans of today’s pupils.”

Read the full article in 2 January edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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