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Engaging with the evidence: exploring the development of historical understanding in students using primary documents

  • Author / Creator
    Coyne, Catherine Elizabeth
  • Research in the development of historical understanding in students has demonstrated that the use of primary source documents engages students in a more meaningful way in the study of history (Barton, 1997c; VanSledright, 2002; Wineburg, 2001). To determine if this research was supported in a local context, I conducted a series of lessons with a class of seventh grade students using primary source documents to answer the central research question: To what extent is the development of historical understanding in students enhanced by the use of primary documents? After learning about Louis Riel and engaging with a series of primary source documents, the students used the documents to answer the question: should Louis Riel have been convicted of treason at his trial in 1885? From the class, the responses of ten participants were coded using VanSledright’s (2002) four reading strategies, ranging from comprehension strategies to more sophisticated intertextual evaluations. This case study reveals that while students struggle to work at the higher levels of historical reading, the use of primary source documents enhances student self-efficacy in social studies. This study also accentuated the need for students to be specifically taught the necessary literacy skills to decode and interpret documents in isolation and intertextually.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2009-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Education
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3VH96
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Master's
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Gibson, Susan (Elementary Education)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
    • Peck, Carla (Elementary Education)