Historical Thinking

To download Heritage Saskatchewan's Historical Thinking poster, click here.

Participation in the Heritage Fair program promotes the development of critical thinking and historical thinking skills, which are useful throughout students' lives and careers. The following 6 characteristics are essential for development of historical thinking skills and promote citizenship. Students should be encouraged to utilize these concepts in the development of their Heritage Fair project.

1) establish historical significance

  • a historical person or event can acquire significance, if we, the historians, can link it to larger trends and stories that reveal something important for us today
  • e.g. what are the significance of my own relatives and their experience in the context of Canadian society at the time?

2) use primary source evidence

  • primary sources are first-hand accounts of something happening or being thought or said
  • primary sources are created at the time of an event or very soon afterwards
  • examples include diaries, letters, photographs, art, maps, video and film, sound recordings, interviews, newspapers, magazines, published first-hand accounts or stories

3) identify continuity and change

  • judgments of continuity and change can be made on the basis of comparisons between some point in the past and present, or two points in the past, such as before and after Confederation in Canada. We evaluate change over time using the ideas of progress and decline.

4) analyze cause and consequence

  • in examining both tragedies and accomplishments in the past, we are usually interested in the question of how and why. These questions start the search for causes: what were the actions, beliefs and circumstances that led to these consequences?

5) take historical perspectives

  • understanding the social, cultural, intellectual and emotional settings that shaped people’s lives and actions in the past 
  • understanding diverse perspectives is a key to historical perspective taking

6) understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations

  • historians attempt to hold back on explicit ethical judgments about people in the midst of their research, but when all is said and done, if the story is meaningful, then there is an ethical judgment involved

(courtesy of Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness)

 

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