Critical Thinking Skills In History

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Critical thinking and analysis are foundational elements of an historian’s work. As they conduct their research, they use those skills to interpret primary sources (such as letters, films, photographs, and other documents) and consider what these sources reveal about the individuals, groups, cultures, and societies that existed within humanity’s recent and not-so-recent past. Historians also read secondary sources—that is, what others have said about these events and people—and thoughtfully evaluate the evidence and arguments presented therein.

Those who teach history also endeavor to teach these skills to students. By developing these critical-thinking skills, students learn to go far deeper than rote memorization of names, dates, and locations; they begin to develop the skills that enable them to begin to think like historians… whether or not they intend to make history their lives’ work. Of course, these skills have value that extends far beyond one history course; the ability to examine evidence, weigh arguments, analyze cause-and-effect relationships, and sift truth from fiction benefit learners in any role they may play in life, whether personal or professional.

If you teach history or a related discipline, you may be seeking ways to bring additional critical-thinking activities into your courses. If that’s true for you, take some time to review the recent webinar “Move Over, Memorization!,” presented by Dr. Kim Todt of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In this presentation, she discusses some of the ways she teaches students to begin thinking critically about history. You’ll learn how she inspires student engagement by encouraging students to investigate history and take on the role of “history detective.” In addition, she suggests some of the types of questions that can structure class discussions in a way that helps students build their critical-thinking and analytical skills.

» View the webinar “Move Over, Memorization!“

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