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The future of learning and teaching in social history: the research approach and employability.

Thinking about the future of social history in pedagogic terms raises several fundamental issues that require detailed and on-going consideration. Decisions on precisely what social history students should cover, and on how strongly social history should feature in their programmes of study, are likely to provide the natural starting point for deliberation. Yet the problem at once arises of selecting content from an enormous and growing range of possibilities, leading to the question of whether particular dimensions should be considered of such importance that, at least as far as programmes of study within particular institutions are concerned, they become part of a core curriculum which all students are required to take. And the possible tension also arises between what social historians would like to teach and what students are likely to find of interest and use value, both within and beyond the realms of social history.

Inseparable from content in planning the present-day history curriculum, including its social dimension, is the issue of skills development. A dichotomy may have been perceived to exist between teaching history and developing students' cognitive and other types of skills, but the debate has now shifted to deciding on the emphasis that should be given to skills' promotion. Enhancing students' historical awareness and understanding, as well as fostering their interest in history, remain the key aims. Yet the issue has to be faced that only a small minority of students can follow careers in which they are able to use their historical knowledge to any appreciable extent. Addressing the skills agenda, however, not only brings considerable advantage in achieving the key aims, but also in highlighting the use value of history degrees with regard to employability, especially when the wide range of occupations into which history graduates go, and the elevated positions to which they aspire, are taken into account. (1)

In addition to considerations of content selection and skills development are those of teaching and learning approaches. Whilst lectures and seminars continue to predominate, neither are strangers to criticism, particularly because they are seen to be ineffective in the learning process. (2) However, higher education historians are well to the fore amongst those who are devising and implementing more experiential and independent forms of learning, not least by encouraging students to engage with primary evidence. Given the richness and variety of the source material at their disposal, social historians are well placed to participate in such activity. Moreover, in history as in other academic disciplines, active and independent forms of learning are being facilitated by the growing use of virtual learning environments, both to enhance provision of the resources with which students can work and to facilitate communication within the learning communities of which they are a part.

Adding to the list of curricular issues that must be addressed in relation to the future of social history teaching is that of how students should be assessed. Discussions about assessment embrace a wide range of concerns, including, for example, achieving consistency and transparency in grading students' work, a matter that seems generally to be addressed with the use of assessment criteria and accompanying statements of attainment. (3) But of fundamental concern, too, is the balance that should be struck between examinations and coursework and about the form that both should take. In teaching all types of history, the ways in which these matters are handled can have a marked impact on student performance, the more so when they are specifically addressed in relation to student needs and aspirations.

A final area of consideration remains to be noted. It concerns the notion of progression. (4) At issue here is how the teaching of social and other types of history can be made more challenging for students as they proceed through their programmes of study. Linked with it is the concept of differentiation, which deals with the learning increments that arise from level to level. Determining progression and differentiation should arguably be linked to each of the curricular dimensions outlined above. Statements relating to them are vital in helping students to appreciate what is required of them as their historical understanding develops and in helping to ensure that a reasonable degree of commonality is achieved amongst teaching teams with regard to these requirements.

In a short paper, it is impossible to explore each of these curricular issues in any depth. However, key points that arise in relation to them can be considered, with a view to identifying appropriate ways forward. These points will not all relate to the study of social history alone, but they are certainly issues that social historians need to address in seeking to ensure that social history continues to thrive in higher education. The line of argument taken is that enhancing the appeal and relevance of social history to an undergraduate clientele will depend on taking careful account of students' needs, especially in terms of employability, and of reflecting these needs in both the way the curriculum is designed and in the learning and teaching approaches that are adopted.

Content issues

Whilst the extent to which social history is taught at all levels of education no doubt varies markedly from one institution to another, the overall impact it has made in curriculum terms may well be quite limited. From a United States perspective, Peter Stearns concedes that notable progress has occurred, with women and some minority groups gaining a place in standard history textbooks, but he remains concerned that social history topics are "squeezed into a largely conventional political framework," sometimes appearing sporadically without the opportunity for students to analyse major changes over time. He regrets, too, that "the behavioural findings in social history--the work on family, on leisure, or manners--simply don't make it into mainstream teaching agendas ...," so that "few students gain access to social history's explanatory power in assessing how current patterns emerge from the past." And the scant attention paid to social dimensions in state history learning standards only heightens his anxiety. (5)

How far similar observations to those of Stearns may be made in relation to the progress of social history in the British educational system is debatable. That, at undergraduate level, students in British universities can specialise to a far greater extent in history than their United States counterparts, plainly gives greater opportunity for their programmes of study to contain appreciable amounts of social history. And social history offerings are certainly well represented in the British undergraduate history curriculum, though with varying degrees of emphasis. Moreover, that course unit planning in Britain tends not to be so strongly rooted in developing long-period perspectives on World History and Western Civilisation helps to give social history a strong curriculum identity in its own right. Even so, it may be the case in Britain that long-period course units dealing with world history still incorporate social history in a limited way, missing opportunity for students to grapple with such matters as social causation of events and the influence of social considerations in determining historical periodisation. As far as British schools are concerned, the opportunity to include social history teaching is undoubtedly considerable under National Curriculum requirements, if more so at the primary stage than later. (6) Indeed, concern has been expressed that students taking advanced level courses prior to becoming undergraduates are apt to be exposed to a diet of modern political history, with the regimes of Hitler and Stalin occupying pride of place. (7)

Whatever the extent to which social history is being taught, and whatever the level of education concerned, the fundamental question to arise in curriculum planning terms is precisely how much social history should students ideally study. Clearly, precise specification is as unnecessary as it is undesirable. But, as envisaged by history benchmarking in Britain, some reasonable balance between different types of history needs to be established. (8) Achieving such an outcome is fraught with difficulty, however. Problems associated with how far different types of history can and should be seen as having discrete boundaries; the extreme specialisation that many historians bring to their teaching, especially, perhaps, in Britain; and the straightjacket that traditional approaches can impose on curriculum development, all cloud the issue. Furthermore, from a student perspective, the question of whether some broad equality in studying various types of history, including social history, should be imposed in programmes of study raises profound concern. An element of compulsion to meet such an objective may well prove acceptable, most obviously, perhaps, in the early stages of programmes when new interests may be aroused and the marks awarded may not count towards final degree classification. Yet too much compulsion risks leading to reluctant learning and to students underperforming. Nor is excessive compulsion likely to help students gain growing control of their own learning agendas as they progress through their programmes of study.

Faced with these fundamental problems, the most appropriate way forward must surely be to find ways of ensuring that the study of social history maximises its appeal to students. Various dimensions of this key point are explored in subsequent sections of this article, but there is plainly a content dimension that needs to be addressed at this juncture. At the heart of the matter lies the need to determine what social history should be taught from the vast and growing range of possibilities available. Selection there must be, but on what basis should it be made?

In making the selection, one potential danger that can all too easily be overlooked is that of being essentially supply led. All historians have their own specialist interests and there is much to be said for teaching from research strengths. (9) Yet the enthusiasms of teacher and taught, even within the confines of particular types of history, will not necessarily coincide. Moreover, research interests may well be highly specialised and not appropriate for early-stage studies, if for later ones. Nor can it be assumed that any themes that are thought crucial for students of social history to engage with will necessarily prove of riveting interest to them, even in the hands of gifted teachers with bountiful resources at their disposal. At the very least, therefore, there is a need to consider what themes and issues are likely to be of high use value in generating interest amongst students. Discussion between social historians on the matter will certainly prove fruitful, as will securing the opinions of students who have actually experienced social history teaching. Themes that are much discussed with regard to present-day society, such as social inequality, family break-up and sexual values, will certainly need consideration, not only because they are so often of direct relevance to students in their everyday lives, but also because they are subjects about which students can be relied upon to have knowledge and opinions on which they can draw. In the same way that themes in political history are often used to juxtapose present with past so too, can those in social history. (10) The question of how much choice in terms of subject matter can and should be given to students, even at the introductory stage of their studies, needs addressing.

It might be objected that too much can be done in terms of pandering to areas of likely student interest, even if these can be identified with any certainty. And there is much to be said for this view if a key aim is for students to gain a broad appreciation of the nature and concerns of the subject. Even so, ways have to be found of engaging students' initial interest in social history and attending to the introductory content of their programmes of study provides an important window of opportunity.

Social history and skills

Whilst addressing the skills agenda has become part of the stock-in-trade of higher education history teachers, whatever their areas of specialisation, questions arise as to precisely what skills should be taught and how far skills development should influence the design of the history curriculum. (11) Fostering historical interest and understanding remain the driving forces, of course, but engaging strongly with skills development can play a crucial role in achieving this aim, as well as offering fundamental help to students in career terms.

This is not the place to offer a detailed discussion of the nature of skills nor of skills classifications, though, as far as any academic discipline is concerned, both need clarification for curriculum development purposes. (12) What is of particular concern here is the type of cognitive skills that students need to acquire if they are to operate effectively as historians, such as critically analyzing secondary historical literature and evaluating the reliability of historical evidence. Such skills no doubt have applicability beyond the academy, especially in the world of work, albeit for the great majority of students in non-historical contexts. And included within this group might be the basic presentational and study skills that undergraduate students need to acquire, but which they often lack, including the ability to be grammatically correct, to take notes and to structure assignments appropriately. How far historians should be involved in helping students to acquire these basic skills has become a matter of growing concern with the move towards mass higher education and may well require greater attention from historians even on those undergraduate programmes where basic skills are purportedly taught elsewhere. (13) The question also arises as to how far skills that are not vital in studying history should also be given attention in the history curriculum. Working in groups provides a good example. Historical study can certainly provide plentiful opportunity for students to engage in group work, enabling them to support one another and, in large measure, to take responsibility for organizing the learning activities they undertake. (14) Moreover, learning to work co-operatively within budget and to deadlines may well be of great value in providing the type of experience that commonly arises in the workplace. (15) Yet benefiting from group work is by no means essential in studying history as an undergraduate, let alone to securing a good degree result, and relatively few history graduates, even in recent years, may have had experience of working with others to any marked extent.

The notion of essential and non-essential skills in the study of history leads naturally into the issue of how far skills development should permeate undergraduate history courses and course units, including those dealing with social history. To a greater or lesser extent, each course unit will pay attention to skills acquisition, and skills concerned with, say, the analysis of historical issues and the presentation of findings will figure in all of them. The question arises, however, as to whether or not some units should be included in history offerings that have a much stronger skills orientation than others. They might, for example, enable students to undertake small-scale investigations into aspects of social history using various types of primary evidence, including that derived from field observation and oral testimony. Furthermore, with students' future careers in mind, they might relate, say, to devising practical work of the type that students intending to become teachers might undertake in schools with children of varying ages.

The key point about such units is that, instead of being primarily concerned with historical content, they offer both the opportunity to enhance skills provision and to emphasize the importance of skills development. Additionally, skills-orientated units enable students to engage very directly in historical investigation and to do so in a sustained manner. With regard to social history, this point can be particularly well made. In terms of theme, available source material and investigative approach, social history offers tremendous opportunities for students to undertake small-scale investigations that vary in nature and scope, enabling them to learn in depth through practical experience. That these investigations may be allowed to reflect students' particular interests only adds to the value they can have as learning experiences and hence to the appeal of social history.

Whatever decisions are taken about the inclusion of skills-orientated units in history programmes, the main consideration from a student perspective is that enhancing cognitive skills is of crucial importance in promoting both historical understanding and employment prospects. The idea that degrees which include major components of history are essentially non-vocational may well need challenging if history undergraduate provision is to thrive in a higher educational environment that is increasingly instrumentally driven. Yet to strengthen this challenge needs consideration not only of the enhancement of intellectual skills that studying history brings, but also of the ways in which skills appreciated by employers can be highlighted in the activities required of undergraduate history students. Making reference to external drivers in this way may seem to be putting the cart before the horse, but the danger of teaching history without exploring how far a double coincidence of wants exists between employers and academics is to miss a key opportunity to demonstrate the use value that historical study can have.

Whether, as with the inclusion of particular content dimensions in history programmes, the implementation of the skills dimension requires the introduction of compulsion also needs consideration. Much may depend on whether, in general, course units are designed to provide opportunity for students to engage in skills-based activities, as increasingly appears to be the case. Still the danger arises that attention to skills enhancement may be too limited if skills-orientated units are not required and made part of the compulsory component in history course offerings.

Learning and teaching approaches

Whilst lectures and seminars may well continue to be the main means by which history undergraduate programmes are delivered, it seems probable that the tendency to emphasise experiential and independent forms of learning will intensify. Such approaches are particularly associated with students informing their studies through the analysis of primary source material, vast and growing amounts of which are readily accessible to them, especially in on-line form. That much of this material can be utilised in studying social history themes offers a great deal of scope for social historians to devise and implement these learning approaches, not only as normal elements in lectures and seminars, but also through tutorial guidance in relation to individual student projects.

Because of differences in student numbers, the introduction of experiential learning normally proves easier in seminars than in lectures. And the forms that seminars based on experiential learning can take vary considerably, examples including pyramiding/'buzz' groups, where a small group discusses ideas and then shares them with others, and syndicates, where students discuss issues working in parallel groups. (16) Accordingly, a less intimidating environment is created for those who are verbally reticent, whilst each participant is given greater opportunity to contribute than would be the case with whole-class discussions. But group work in seminars also takes the form of practical workshop activities that require students to explore historiographical issues with the aid of primary evidence, the work of each group perhaps being combined to permit a fuller analysis and to provide a firmer basis for plenary discussion. (17)

Experiential learning also appears to be gaining greater favour in lectures, at least in those catering for relatively small numbers of students. Students questioning as the lecture proceeds, and giving them the opportunity to ask questions of the lecturer from time to time, are examples. So, too, are class debates and the polling of student opinion that can arise from them. (18) What is important with these types of activity is that they enable students to participate more directly in the learning process than is the case with lectures that depend entirely on inputs made by the lecturer. Not all students may be reached through these techniques and some are likely to engage more strongly than others, but the overall impact may still be considerable, especially if the contributions of the more reticent are actively sought and valued as the lecture series proceeds.

Further opportunities to develop experiential forms of learning are being increasingly realised through the use of ICT facilities. Provision of primary source material for use in seminar discussions and workshops, some in data base and spreadsheet form, offers useful possibilities here. (19) So, too, do on-line seminars, which involve synchronous dialogue between the teacher and small groups of students, and asynchronous discussion, which can involve larger numbers of students and may require little teacher intervention. (20) One advantage perceived to arise with the former is that they improve the quality of discussion, since, for example, all participants can respond simultaneously to a point, so no one is put off by having to wait and risk discussion moving ahead. (21) Another advantage is that contributions are encouraged from students who are reluctant to speak in face-to-face seminar discussion. (22) That such students may be less shy on-line seems to reflect the responsibility they feel they should take because they are less certain than in a face-to-face situation whether other students will respond. As to asynchronous discussions, a major advantage is seen to arise in that they provide a useful means by which groups of students can interact with one another outside the confines of designated face-to-face seminar times. In this way, an additional means of creating learning groups can be achieved, enabling students to discuss matters of concern with each other including and beyond those raised in seminar discussion. Furthermore, as T. Mills Kelly suggests, since students now communicate via technology to an unprecedented degree, they may actually prefer on-line approaches as a means of enhancing collaborative learning. (23)

The broader advantage that on-line facilitates can bring with regard to enabling more flexible approaches to learning also needs recognition. That some provision is made available in flexible form can be of particular advantage to students with heavy employment and/or family commitments. Indeed, students can be freed entirely from attending face-to-face lectures and seminars, with tuition being provided for them solely on-line. But elements of flexibility might be built into many course units, freeing time for a greater amount of individual contact with students. Of course, such approaches are not dependent on using on-line forms of delivery, though on-line provision can prove highly convenient and cost effective, especially where substantial visual inputs are involved.

Assessment considerations

The move towards more experiential forms of learning history at undergraduate level, especially with regard to dissertation preparation, coupled with the delivery of the skills agenda, which has encouraged the growth of primary-source based activity, brings a far greater emphasis on assessing students by means of coursework rather than by examinations. How far this change should proceed, and what forms coursework assessment might take, are matters that have inevitably generated a good deal of discussion amongst historians. (24) Part of the context for these deliberations has been the shortcomings that examinations are perceived to have as a means of assessment, especially in relation to experiential forms of learning, but there has also been a good deal of discussion about new ways that students can be assessed when tackling the skills agenda, with oral assessment being prominent amongst them.

That traditional written examinations based on unseen papers are thought to have telling advantages as a means of assessment, including testing students' ability to think quickly and to guard against plagiarism, helps to explain their persistence. (25) Yet they obviously cannot be used to assess the full range of work that history students undertake, including oral presentations and dissertations, as well as having other well-known drawbacks. (26) Accordingly, questions arise about how far assessment practices within history programmes as a whole should be based on coursework and whether all course-unit offerings within them should carry the same, or a very similar weighting between examination and coursework components. Institutional practice may well impose constraints on how far particular types of assessment can be utilised, but, in as far as freedom of choice is available, much might be achieved by considering assessment practices from the perspective of their potential use value to students. Take oral assessment, for example. It is highly likely that graduate history students in their working lives will be required to make periodic oral presentations. To give them experience in so doing, seminar presentations can be given a significant assessment weighting, with feedback being offered on strengths and weaknesses. The aims here might extend beyond those of developing oral skills into such matters as confidence building and reflection. The same type of argument might be used in relation to other forms of assessment, such as group work and report writing.

Viewed from an employment perspective, the relevance of the traditional dependence in undergraduate history programmes on assessing students according to their essay writing skills, both in examinations and in coursework assignments, may be questioned. (27) How often in their future working lives will students be called upon to write essays? It may be that the skills involved in essay writing are, to an appreciable extent, transferable to report writing, certainly in relation to structuring information, maintaining relevance, synthesising and engaging in analysis. Yet report writing can require the application of skills that are not necessarily gained to any appreciable extent in writing historical essays, such as summarising and commenting on statistical data. Moreover, oral skills still need to be enhanced with future employment demands in mind, even though the temptation to assess every utterance that a student makes must plainly be avoided.

How far higher education historians would wish to proceed along the lines of implementing a more demand-driven assessment model, and how far they would be prepared to assess summatively other than by essay writing, will no doubt vary appreciably from individual to individual. Yet to consider types of assessment from the student perspective at least gives opportunity to decide whether amendments to existing practice might be usefully made. And that students who do not score particularly good marks in examinations may well attain higher performance levels by undertaking various types of coursework also needs recognition.


In curriculum planning terms, an additional consideration with regard to each of the curricular dimensions so far considered is that of progression. The essential point is how can the activities undertaken by history students, including those studying social history, be made more academically challenging for them as they proceed through their programmes of study. Of concern, too, is the question of differentiation, which deals with the variations in terms of academic challenge that are incorporated from level to level within these programmes. And these variations are articulated both with regard to the type of demands they make on students and the degree of change they bring. Unless these issues are addressed and articulated, neither staff nor students will have a clear idea of how expectations change from level to level. Furthermore, unless considered in relation to each of the main curricular dimensions, opportunity to develop the maximum potential they can offer in enhancing the student learning experience will be lost. (28)

Beginning with content, the well-known tendency is to move from broadly-based provision to more specialist study, perhaps thematic in nature and/or occupying a relatively short time period. Such an approach can be seen to have advantage in that broadly-based introductory study

* provides the contextual knowledge and understanding that students need to move effectively into more specialist study;

* may well awaken new interests amongst students;

* helps students to make informed choices about their subsequent programmes of study;

* can have particular value for students who have little or no historical background, including United States students enrolled on liberal arts or pre-professional programmes. (29)

Additionally, moving from breadth to depth can provide opportunity for more challenging types of learning to the introduced. A case in point might be course units that deliberately focus on a limited range of subject matter in order to enhance the scope for in-depth investigation of key historiographical issues using primary evidence.

Compelling though these arguments may be, the question remains as to whether all the course units offered at an introductory level on history programmes should be broadly-based. To provide an entire diet of such units may achieve desirable objectives, but, equally, others may be overlooked or underplayed, such as providing opportunity to undertake in-depth historical investigation using primary evidence. Moreover, whether the interest factor is likely to remain high amongst students when only broadly-based provision is made available may be doubted. The most favoured approach with regard to content at an introductory level, therefore, might be to plan for an emphasis on broadly-based provision, but also to allow scope for some in-depth study, an approach underpinning the American Historical Association's Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age project. (30)

As far as the ways in which progression in skills-based provision is achieved in history programmes is concerned, insights can be gained by considering how history courses involve students in the appreciation and use of primary evidence. In terms of enhancing the skills that historians need to deploy, history programmes that increasingly require students to utilise primary evidence in more sophisticated ways clearly make greater demands on them; in effect, students are being asked to work in the manner of research historians, albeit at a less sophisticated level of competence. To cite one possibility, students may be required to move from a position where, having become highly proficient in evaluating the reliability of various types of historical evidence, and considering the type of contexts in which it is used, they deploy this evidence critically to appraise differing historiographical perspectives.

In terms of devising skills-based progressions based on using primary evidence, there may be much to be said for beginning planning activity with a consideration of what will be expected of students during the final stages of their studies. (31) At the forefront of thought may be the skills that students will need to have acquired to cope satisfactorily with preparing a final-level dissertation of their choosing. To help them, course units may be offered at the preceding level which incorporate small-scale, closely-directed projects that make use of primary evidence and that carry a significant proportion--perhaps fifty or sixty per cent--of the available marks. (32) And as preparation for these projects, students might undertake exercises at the entry level of their programmes that are designed to deepen and extend their understanding of the use value and limitations of primary evidence. Opportunity is thus provided for students to progressively acquire the skills they need for dissertation preparation, with the expectations made of them at each level of provision being specified; more challenging activities being required as they proceed; and a clear path towards more independent forms of learning being created. (33)

Mention of independent forms of learning leads into consideration of progression with regard to learning and teaching approaches. The key aim here is that of empowering students through the skills and understanding they acquire, and the confidence they gain in their abilities, to take increasing responsibility for their own learning. Thus they might become less dependent on lecturing as a form of tuition, with advanced modules typically offering fewer lectures than introductory modules, and hence on inputs emanating from tutors. Instead, they might come to rely more on seminars and tutorials in order to enhance their opportunities to formulate and discuss their own ideas. Such a transition is quite evident with regard to dissertation preparation, but it might also extend to preparing self-designed assignments in other final-level work. It might be the case, too, that the contact time between teacher and any individual student is appreciably reduced, the student taking advantage of frequent but brief discussions with the tutor, not necessarily on a face-to-face basis.

It remains to consider progression in terms of assessment approaches. Plainly, if in the interests of skills development, students are working increasingly with primary material as they move through their programmes of study, consideration must be given as to how far their capacity to do so can be catered for by examinations rather than various types of coursework. One approach would be to reduce the weighting given to examinations in the later stages of programmes, as commonly happens because dissertations are included at final level. But the process could go further by, say, relying totally at final level on coursework assessment involving the preparation of essays that are informed by primary evidence. Introducing small-scale research projects at intermediate level might also facilitate assessment progression. As far as examinations are concerned, greater weighting might be given in the later stages of programmes to 'gobbet' type questions, in which students evaluate and contextualize extracts of primary evidence. (34) It may be that gobbets feature in examinations at all levels of study, but students would then need to know in what ways greater demands are being made of them in tackling those set in higher-level examinations. And if gobbets only appear in the later stages of study, what are the reasons?


From the point of view of learning and teaching, social history has a tremendous amount to offer students in all phases of education. Its broadly-based content coverage adds enormously to the scope of the historical study they can undertake, opening up prospects in such areas as gender and race history that, a generation ago, were all too often accorded a marginal place in the history syllabus. And that social history greatly extends the possibilities for studying the lives and times of ordinary people--the bulk of the population, that is--creates opportunities for students to study in areas with which they can readily identify and which are of fundamental concern and interest to them. Furthermore, the differing types of source material on which social history students can draw, both in written and non-written forms, coupled with the varied range of investigative techniques they can employ, provide a remarkable degree of opportunity for them to study experientially. In doing so, they can exert a substantial degree of control over the form that their studies take, becoming increasing responsible for setting their own learning agendas.

To offer such compelling advantages is one thing, but realizing them is quite another. Institutional and legislative constraints may act as severe checks, but so, too, may the neglect of learning and teaching matters by social historians. What is extremely important is that social history should be made as attractive an area of study for students and prospective students as possible. In part, this objective can be achieved by thinking the unthinkable and reallocating time away from discipline-based research towards pedagogical-based research in order to better understand the ways in which social history is effectively pursued by students. Perhaps taking a more realistic standpoint, smaller amounts of time might be spent on research in general and more on developing learning and teaching approaches. Whatever the amount of time devoted to learning and teaching matters, however, what is of vital concern is to view them from the student perspective, devising course units that may not always be linked with teachers' major research interests. (35) And both in terms of promoting active learning and enhancing employability, the skills agenda needs to be carefully addressed. Above all, ways of progressively developing students' knowledge and understanding of social history, and their ability to operate with increasing sophistication as social historians, need to be devised and implemented.

Department of Humanities

Preston PR1 2HE



1. For a recent employment survey concerning British history graduates, see D. Nicholls, "What's the Use of History? The career destination of history graduates" at <>.

2. See, for example, G. Light and R. Cox, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The Reflective Professional (2001), pp.97-9 and J. Cannon, Teaching History at University (London, 1984), p.21.

3. Those used in the History Department at the University of Sydney, for example, can be seen at <>.

4. Some examples of how progression my be achieved in the undergraduate history curriculum can be found in T. Hitchcock, R. B. Shoemaker and J. Tosh, "Skills and the Structure of the History Curriculum" in A. Booth and P. Hyland (eds), The Practice of University History Teaching (2000), pp.53-8.

5. P. N. Stearns, "Social History Present and Future," Journal of Social History, 37 (2003): 13.

6. See the Breadth of Study components at each of the three Key Stages of the National Curriculum at <>. Considerable scope is offered through the study of local history at each Key Stage.

7. R. Pearce, "University History, 2003," History Today, 53 (2003): 55-6.

8. Subject benchmark statements describe the nature and characteristics of subject programmes in higher education and represent general standards about the award of qualifications at particular levels. That for History was published in 2000 and, along with those for other subjects, can be seen at <>.

9. For a recent discussion on this link, see A. Jenkins and R. Zetter, Linking Research and Teaching in Departments (York, 2003).

10. P.N. Stearns, "Goals in History Teaching," in J. F. Voss and M. Carretero, (eds) International Review of History Education Volume 2: Learning and Reasoning in History (London, 1998), p.291.

11. For a comprehensive statement of the range of skills history undergraduates might be expected to acquire see the 2nd and 3rd Year Unit Descriptions and Handbook for 2004/5 produced by the Department of Historical studies at Bristol University. It can be found at <>.

12. There is helpful comment on the matter in A. Booth, Teaching History at University (London, 2003), pp.22-8. See also G. Timmins, K. Vernon and C. Kinealy, Teaching & Learning History (London, 2005), pp. 96-131.

13. Booth, Teaching, pp.123-6.

14. Booth, Teaching, pp.116-7.

15. J. Allen and R. Lloyd-Jones, The Assessment of Group Work and Presentations in the Humanities: A Guidebook for Tutors (Sheffield, no date), p.1; Light and Cox, Learning and Teaching, p.184.

16. For examples of these types of approaches, see J. R. Davis and P. Salmon, "'Deep Learning' and the Large Seminar in History Teaching" in Booth and Hyland, Practice, pp.125-36; Booth, Teaching, pp. 97-8 & 104-5.

17. Such an approach can be highly useful in comparative analysis, as with census occupational data drawn from different localities.

18. See, for example, the approaches outlined by P. J. Frederick, "Motivating Students by Active Learning in the History Classroom" in Booth and Hyland, Practice, pp.101-111.

19. J. B. M. Schick, Teaching History with a Computer: A Complete Guide for College Professors (1990).

20. S. Cameron, "Online Discussion Groups--How to Set Them Up" at <>.

21. See E. L. Skip Knox, The Rewards of Teaching On-Line at <>.

22. M. B. Emmerichs, The United States Since The Civil War: Reflective Essay at <>.

23. T. Mills Kelly, Using New Media to Teach East European History at <>.

24. Booth, Teaching, pp.132-4.

25. G. Brown, Assessment: A Guide for Lecturers (2001), p.10.

26. Light and Cox, Learning and Teaching, pp.171-2.

27. History benchmarking places high importance on assessing students by essay work. See Quality Assurance Agency, History Benchmarking Statement (2000), p.6.

28. G. Timmins, Progression in Higher Education History Programmes: the Conceptual Dimension (2003) at <>. See also Timmins, Vernon, Kinealy, History, pp. 39-66.

29. W. Simons A. LaPotin, "A 'Great Issues' Format in the American History Survey: Analysis of a Pilot Project," Teaching History, XVIII (1992), p.51.

30. Details can be found at <>.

31. The notion could be usefully extended so that the starting point for planning becomes the post-graduate level.

32. On the importance of including 'intermediate' or 'apprenticeship' projects generally in the undergraduate curriculum, see K. Cuthbert, "Independent Study and Project Work: Continuities or Discontinuities," Teaching in Higher Education, 6 (2001), pp.69-84.

33. A progression of this type is evident in the on-line description of the BA History course offered at Sheffield Hallam University. It can be seen at <>.

34. For details, see the University of Durham, Department of History, On Writing a Gobbet at <>.

35. For further comment, see Booth, Teaching, pp. 80-3.

By Geoffrey Timmins

University of Central Lancashire
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Author:Timmins, Geoffrey
Publication:Journal of Social History
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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