Humanities education

An inventory

Ben Wilbrink

My intention in creating these 'education pages' is to assemble materials from several disciplines to investigate how they are handling common sense ideas, folk ideas, naive ideas, whatever they might get called, that are inconsistent with the scientific ideas in that particular discipline. The prime example is the folk physics of pupils that is frustrating their learning the classical mechanics of Newton, while most programs or teachers do not explicitly handle this problem, or even are aware of it. While this kind of problem evidently is frustrating the efficiency of education, it also touches on what is valid assessment of knowledge of physics. Designing physics tests should touch on this issue.

There is a flipside to this kind of issue: there are also intuitions etcetera that are consistent or might be regarded as consistent with scientific ideas. They could be of great significance in education, because they might make it possible to introduce complex ideas much earlier, much simpler. Among others Andrea DiSessa is running some projects along this line, in matheducation. For a more general approach to research on intuitions see for example the work of Gerd Gigerenzer (site).


Physics education
Mathematics education
Life sciences education
Humanitieses education
Language education
conceptual change (paradigm shift)

The inventory will contain studies, web pages etc. that in one way or another might touch on the topic of designing humanities test items.

direct hits

Michael Fordham (2015). History teaching. A bibliographical handbook. pdf

Mark Day (2008). The Philosophy of History. London: Continuum. isbn 9780826488480 info

Manuel Montanero & Manuel Lucero (2011). Causal discourse and the teaching of history. How do teachers explain historical causality? Instructional Science, 39, 109-136. abstract

Carl Bereiter (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age. Erlbaum. questia

James F. Voss (Ed.) (1997). Explanation and understanding in learning history. International Journal of Educational Research, 27 (3), 185-266.

Jannet van Drie, Carla van Boxtel & Jos van der Linden (2005). Historical reasoning in a computer-supported collaborative learning environment. In A.M. O’Donnell, C.E.  Hmelo, & G. Erkens: Collaborative learning, reasoning and technology (pp.  266-297). Erlbaum

J. van Drie (2005). Learning about the past with new technologies. Fostering historical reasoning in computer-supported collaborative learning. Dissertation University of Utrecht. abstract pdf full text

Linda Symcox (2004). Thinking historically: Critical engagement with the past. Social Studies Review. html

Maaike Prangsma, Carla M. van Boxtel, Gellof Kanselaar & Paul A. Kirschner (2009). Concrete and abstract visualizations in history learning tasks. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 371-387. pdf

Bruce Torff and Robert J. Sternberg (Eds) (2001). Understanding and Teaching the Intuitive Mind: Student and Teacher Learning Erlbaum. questia

David R. Olson and Jerome S. Bruner (1996). Folk psychology and folk pedagogy. In D.R. Olson and N. Torrance: The handbook of education and human development (pp. 9–27). Blackwell. isbn 1557864608

Richard J. Paxton (1999). A deafening silence: History tetbooks and the students who read them. Review of Educational Research, 69, 315-339.

Tom Holt (1994). Thinking Historically: Narrative, Imagination, and Understanding., NY: The College Board

Allan Bloom (1987). The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. NY: Simon and Schuster.

Chauncey Monte-Sano (2008). Qualities of historical writing instruction: A comparative case study of two teachrs' practices. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 1045- John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking (Eds) (1999). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. National Research Council. html.

Carole L. Hahn (1994). Controversial Issues in History Instruction. In Mario Carretero and James F. Voss: Cognitive and Instructional Processes in History and the Social Sciences (p. 201-220). Erlbaum questia

Deanna Kuhn, Michael Weinstock, and Robin Flaton (1994). Historical Reasoning as Theory-Evidence Coordination. In Mario Carretero and James F. Voss: Cognitive and Instructional Processes in History and the Social Sciences (377-402). Erlbaum.questia

David Perkins (1993). Teaching for understanding. American Educator: The Professional Journal of the American Federation of Teachers, 17 #3, pp. 8,28-35.html

Histoforum. Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis didactiek [sic]. online website


> The Web contains a lot of information. The H-Bot application uses the Web to answer factual questions. Assuming students to have cellphones that enable them to use H-Bot, they might be able to use it to answer factual items on any test they have to sit. On a little bit of reflective thinking it will be perfectly clear to them that an education that will enable with great costs to do the same things an application like H-Bot can do in just a split second, is a lousy proposition.


What is the main reason the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America?
  1. To practice their religion freely
  2. To make more money and live a better life
  3. To build a democratic government
  4. To expand the lands controlled by the king of England

H-Bot cannot understand the principles of religious freedom, personal striving, political systems, or imperialism. But it need not comprehend these concepts to respond correctly. Instead, to answer the seemingly abstract question about the Puritans and Pilgrims and why they came to America, H-Bot found that Web pages on which words like "Puritan" and "Pilgrim" appear contain the words "religion" and (religious) "practice" more often than words like "money," "democratic," or "expand" and "lands." (To be more precise, in this case H-Bot’s algorithms actually compare the normal frequency of these words on the Web with the frequency of these words on relevant pages, therefore discounting the appearance of "money" on many pages with "Puritan" and "Pilgrim" because "money" appears on over 280 million Web pages, or nearly one out of every 28 Web pages.) H-Bot thus correctly surmises that the answer is (a). Again, using the mathematics of normalized information distance the software need not find pages that specifically discuss the seventeenth-century exodus from England or that contain an obvious sentence such as "The Puritans came to America to practice their religion more freely." Using its algorithms on various sets of words it can divine that certain combinations of rare words are more likely than others. It senses that both religion and freedom had a lot to do with the history of the Pilgrims and Puritans.

This is a NAEP question. Source: Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig (2005) (see below)

Baron, C. (2012, February 27). Understanding Historical Thinking at Historic Sites. Journal of Educational Psychology. pdf [natrekken: Shemilt, 2000 VanSledright, 2010, p. 116]

Nokes, J.D., Dole, J.A., Hacker, D.J. (2007). Teaching High School students to use heuristics while reading historical texts Journal of Education Psychology, 99, 492-504. abstract

Jeffrey D. Nokes (2011). Historical literacy. docx

Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig (2006). No Computer Left Behind. Chronicle of Higher Education, February 24. html

John R. Searle (1992). The rediscovery of the mind. MIT Press.


Olivier Nyirubugara (2012). Surfing the Past. Digital learners in the history class. Dissertation Amsterdam University. Sidestone Press read ebook

Jeffery D. Nokes, Janice A. Dole & Douglas J. Hacker (2007). Teaching High School Students to Use Heuristics While Reading Historical Texts Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 492-504. abstract

Tsafrir Goldberg, Baruch B. Schwarz & Dan Porat (2008). Living and dormant collective memories as contexts of history learning.Learning and Instruction, 18, 223-237. abstract

Margaret G. McKeown & Isabel L. Beck (1990). The Assessment and Characterization of Young Learners' Knowledge of a Topic in History American Educational Research Journal, 27, 688- abstract


GESCHIEDENIS EXAMINEREN OP NIVEAU Geschiedenis examineren op niveau. Rapport van het pilotproject CHMV-examen geschiedenis havo en vwo 2010

In the Low Countries a successful attempt has been made to establish a canon of historical events in the Netherlands. Here the Dutch use of the term canon means pretty much the same as 'standards' in English, in the narrow sense however of a list of the crucial facts or events in the history of .... [The Netherlands, physics, or whatever].

The problem here might simply be that establishing a canon of 50 (why not 51? Or 49, for that matter?) historical events important enough for every citizen to know something about them, is only an attempt to specify some content. Mathematics curricula used to be defined that way also. Establishing this or that 'canon' in and of itself does not contribute anything essential to education, not even democratic education. Or is it? There has been very much discussion in the press about this canon, specific entries in it, alternatives for the canon as a whole, attempts to also establish canons in other disciplines, especially the sciences. For the Commisions reaction see the Report C pdf 8 Mb This canon thing touches immediately on the question what education is about, and therefore what questions in education are about, and how to design them. Should those questions be about declarative knowledge of these 50 canonical events? I do not think so. Then what else?

Frits van Oostrum (4 juli 2007). Dit is de canon die iedereen moet kennen. De Volkskrant p. 11. pdf

Instituut voor Geschiedenisdidactiek IVGD (maart 2007). Beter geschiedenis met een canon? Een reactie van het IVGD. pdf

Joop G. Toebes (1987). History: A distinct(ive) subject? The problem of the combination of history with other human and social sciences in particular with social studies in secondary education in the Federal Republic of Germany, England and the Netherlands. Leiden: Brill. isbn 9004080864.

Nicolaas Groot (1994). Wetenschap en theologie bij Friedrich Schleiermacher. Proefschrift Rijksuniversiteit Leiden.

H. W. F. Stellwag (1949). De waarde der klassieke vorming. Een cultuur-historische paedagogisch-psychologische en didaktische inleiding. Groningen: Wolters.


Roger Shattuck (1999). Candor and perversion. Literature, education, and the arts. Norton. isbn 0393048071

William M. Sullivan & Matthew S. Rosin (Eds.) (2008). A new agenda for higher education. Shaping a life of the mind for practice. Jossey-Bass. isbn 9780470257579 info

Thics in the profession, and how to deal with that in higher education. Ideology? Romanticism? Or is this a necessary book? Foreword by Lee S. Shulman & Gary D. Fenstermache vii-xiv. The financial crisis of 2008 must have come as a shock to the people in this 2008 book: especially academicians played a dark role in the developments leading up and into the financial crisis.

Sam Wineburg, Susan Mosborg, Dan Porat and Ariel Duncan (2007). Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Consciousness. American Educational Research Journal, 44, 40-76. abstract

The authors conclude by discussing the forces that act to historicize today’s youth and suggest how educators might marshal these forces—rather than spurning or simply ignoring them—to advance young people’s historical understanding.

Susan Mosborg (2002). Speaking of history: How adolescents use their knowledge in reading the daily news. Cognition and Instruction, 20, 323­-358. samenvatting

John Cannon (1992). Teaching history at university. The History Teacher, 22, 245-275. jstor

C. Alan Boneau (1990). Psychological literacy. A first approximation. American Psychologist, 45, 891-900.

Sister Madeleine Gregg, fcJ, and Gaea Leinhardt (1994). Mapping out geography: An example of epistemology and education. Review of Eduational Research, 64, 311-361. jstor

James W. Cunningham and Jill Fitzgerald (1996). Epistemology and reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 31, 36-60. jstor

Lewy, & Shavit (1974). Types of examinations in history studies. JEM, 11, 35

Wineburg, S. S. (1991). Historical problem solving: A study of the cognitive processes used in the evaluation of documentary and pictorial evidence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 73–87. [I have yet to see this one]

Leinhardt, G. (1993). Weaving instructional explanations in history. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 46-74. geen fc. (paper presents a typology of instructional explanations in this discipline, gebaseerd op een heel semester bij een geschiedenis docent)

McEwan, H., & Bull, B. (1991). The pedagogic nature of subject matter knowledge. AERJ 28, 316-336.

J.W.G. Claessen, W.M.L. Kratsborn, J. Tuit & H. Swart (2011?). De kennisbasis voor geschiedenis. Herinneren voor de toekomst.

Carla van Drie (2009). Geschiedenis, erfgoed en didactiek. oratie. pdf

Carla van Boxtel & Jannet van Drie (2012): “That’s in the Time of the Romans!” Knowledge and Strategies Students Use to Contextualize Historical Images and Documents, Cognition and Instruction, 30:2, 113-145. abstract


A. Wilschut, D. van Straaten & M. van Riesen (2004). Geschiedenisdidactiek. Handboek voor de vakdocent. Coutinho. (384 bl.). [nog niet gezien, besproken door Cees van der Kooij in Didaktief nr 8, oktober 2005, blz. 35. Frits van Oostrom (Voorzitter) (2006). De canon van Nederland. Deel A. Ministerie van OCenW. isbn 9059103947 — 106 blz.

I. Preneel (1987 3e). Historische kritiek. Acco.

Hanneke Moors, Laurine Siermann & Karien de Smet (z.d.). Literatuuronderwijs in de Tweede Fase. H

Grada Huis (Eindred.) (2006). Godsdienst/levensbeschouwing als Examenvak. Handreiking. mei 2006. Besturenraad, Concent en VGS/BGS. ISBN 9070724863 pdf

B. H. D. Hermesdorf (1951). Licht en schaduw in de advocatuur der Lage landen. Historische studie. Brill.


Clayton Roberts (1996). The logic of historical explanation. The Pennsylvania State University Press. isbn 0271014431 info

Dutch link

Het geheugen van Nederland website


Editor(s): Christine Counsell, Katharine Burn, Arthur Chapman (2016). MasterClass in History Education Transforming Teaching and Learning - See more at: info

Michael Fordham (20 June 2015). Why don't we have set texts in history? blog

Where have progression models in history gone wrong? Posted on 2 March 2017 by Michael Fordham blog

The problem with general ability statements in history education. Posted on 19 March 2017 by Michael Fordham blog

Ben Wilbrink (March 17, 2017). Explaining history (math, physics)? Is it even possible? [@ myth #7] blog

March 20, 2017 \ contact ben at at at    

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