A series of investigations carried out by a British research group have identified a developmental sequence of children’s understanding of social or institutional practices of the past (e.g., trial by ordeal in Anglo-Saxon England; a law in the Roman Empire providing for the execution of all slaves in a household if the master was killed by a slave). On a first level these practices are regarded as unintelligible or stupid, and people in the past as immoral and less clever than us; at the most advanced level there is an understanding that past actions and practices may be motivated by beliefs and values different from ours. The hypothesis of the present study is that the various levels of the sequence mirror different degrees of historical knowledge and an increasing ability to understand the texts describing the actions and institutions dealt with by the interviews. Two groups of 3rd and 5th graders were therefore presented with two different versions of a text on ordeal: one was the same as that used by the British group, the other was a shorter and clearer version. Several questions assessed children’s comprehension and evaluation of ordeal. Results show that the simpler version allowed even 3rd graders to understand the relation between ordeal and Anglo-Saxon religion. These results suggest shifting our attention from children to history texts. Many textbooks for elementary school are similar to the original text devised by Lee and colleagues: they are loosely connected, take for granted many fundamental concepts, and often omit causal links. Rather than examining how children’s pre-conceptions, historical consciousness, or reasoning affect their understanding of history, we should examine the text they are confronted with, and assess the extent to which texts with a different construction result in different kinds of conceptions and understanding.

La comprension de instituciones del pasado en niños de 8 y 10 años,

BERTI, ANNA EMILIA;
2006

Abstract

A series of investigations carried out by a British research group have identified a developmental sequence of children’s understanding of social or institutional practices of the past (e.g., trial by ordeal in Anglo-Saxon England; a law in the Roman Empire providing for the execution of all slaves in a household if the master was killed by a slave). On a first level these practices are regarded as unintelligible or stupid, and people in the past as immoral and less clever than us; at the most advanced level there is an understanding that past actions and practices may be motivated by beliefs and values different from ours. The hypothesis of the present study is that the various levels of the sequence mirror different degrees of historical knowledge and an increasing ability to understand the texts describing the actions and institutions dealt with by the interviews. Two groups of 3rd and 5th graders were therefore presented with two different versions of a text on ordeal: one was the same as that used by the British group, the other was a shorter and clearer version. Several questions assessed children’s comprehension and evaluation of ordeal. Results show that the simpler version allowed even 3rd graders to understand the relation between ordeal and Anglo-Saxon religion. These results suggest shifting our attention from children to history texts. Many textbooks for elementary school are similar to the original text devised by Lee and colleagues: they are loosely connected, take for granted many fundamental concepts, and often omit causal links. Rather than examining how children’s pre-conceptions, historical consciousness, or reasoning affect their understanding of history, we should examine the text they are confronted with, and assess the extent to which texts with a different construction result in different kinds of conceptions and understanding.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/1558886
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