All aboard the good ship Clio

29th June 2001 at 01:00
PRIMARY DIRECTIONS SERIES. Thinking History 4-14: Teaching, learning, curriculum and communities. By Grant Bage. RoutledgeFalmer, pound;15.99. Available from TES Direct.

Grant Bage invites us on a journey. We are going to discover how we want to teach history. The voyage begins symbolically in Greenwich, home of Harrison's clock, which made it possible, in the 18th century to measure longitude and so to travel accurately around the globe. Greenwich is now a multicultural borough.

On this journey we must navigate metaphorically using seven "lines of longitude": issues about governance, diversity, media, values, democracy, cognition and society. These are intersected by "lines of latitude": issues about learning, teaching, curriculum and communities. We have the grid set out for us.

In the first four chapters the intersections between these sets of issues are discussed and questions raised. Depending on how we answer them we chart our personal courses as history educators. So, all aboard the Good Ship Clio. Captain Bage has the support of an excellent crew to help us chart our course.

Calm seas are unlikely. We have been warned that we shall get nowhere unless we all engage with manning the halyards, for "the national curriculum is a hotch-potch affair of often conflicting aims and interests", dependent on teachers' mediation. Is history pursued for intrinsic or extrinsic ends? How do we enable pupils to initiate questions meaningful to them? How do we help them to learn about emotions through and in history?

Does studying slavery in the British Empire "feel" the same to teachers and learners in multicultural and monocultural classes? Does the history curriculum which pupils experience raise questions about gender, class or cultural disadvantages? What do we mean by "quality" in history teaching?

What can history offer the learner in an interdisciplinary manner? How can history engender lifelong learning in local communities?

The second part of the book considers the implications of our answers to such questions for the direction of our practice. There are excellent starting points for policy writing, strategies and typologies for responding to different learning styles, models for developing questioning, literacy and multimedia skills, for assessment and for monitoring quality.

The great contribution of the book is that it debates issues and practice in the learning and teachingof history as part of a continuum from age four to 14.

The grid references are necessary but not sufficient. The confidence and professional judgments of creative teachers are seen as the lodestar by which this ship must be steered.

Hilary Cooper is reader in education at St Martin's College, Lancaster

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