On 25 July 2017, the National Institute of Education (NIE) was the venue for the 4th History Symposium, a teachers’ conference jointly organised by NIE’s Humanities and Social Studies Education (HSSE) Academic Group (AG), the History Unit in the Curriculum Planning and Development Division (CPDD), and the History Subject Chapter at the Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST). This annual event aims to provide a platform for history educators, at secondary and junior college levels, to share instructional strategies and resources, and works to promote a ground-up, teacher-driven collaborative culture in schools. A total of 147 history teachers attended this year’s event, together with CPDD officers, AST Master Teachers, NIE student teachers, museum educators and staff members from HSSE AG.
The theme of the 4th History Symposium was ‘Constructing History: Understanding Historical Evidence and Accounts’, and Dr Arthur Chapman — Senior Lecturer at the University College London Institute of Education and a well-published scholar in history education, delivered the keynote address that set the tone and subject-matter focus for this full-day event. In his keynote speech, entitled ‘Building Powerful Historical Learning: Evidence, Argument and Interpretation in the Classroom’, Dr Chapman made a compelling case for argumentation and the use of historical reasoning skills to assist students in building and expressing historical knowledge and understanding. He sharedseveral research-informed, design-based pedagogical strategies that teachers can use in the classroom to create effective experiences in historical learning and to develop students’ thinking in history. In keeping up with the theme of the symposium, a plenary session was organised to engage the audience on matters of common interest. Moderated by Dr Angeline Jude Yeo, Senior Specialist, CPDD, and consisting a panel made up of Dr Chapman, Associate Professor Ivy Maria Lim, HSSE, and Mr Andrew Anthony, Principal Master Teacher, AST.The session succeeded in delivering an insightful and thought-provoking discussion on the nature of history, history learning and pedagogical expertise in historical instruction.
As a platform for the history teaching fraternity to come together to build professional practice and to explore ways to better develop students’ historical thinking, this year’s symposium saw a range of innovative and creative ideas presented during the concurrent sessions.Teaching methodologies shared during these presentations provided evidence of the thriving interest and deep passion that history teachers and history educators in Singapore have in raising standards of historical instruction in schools. There was widespread excitement when Associate Professor Mark Baildon shared with all history teachers the current work surrounding ‘The Historian’s Lab’— an eduLab-funded signature programme developed by history educators and historians at HSSE. The teachers could see the potential of the web-based learning portal in helping to develop students’ disciplinary thinking and understanding about the historian’s craft. History teachers also were intrigued by the educational research NIE’s BA/TSP students were undertaking as part of their undergraduate programme. The poster conference put up by the Teaching Scholars Programme (TSP), BA and crossover students included educational research on the development of the local history syllabus over time, depictions of historical events in textbook accounts across different national contexts, and empirical studies on the outcomes of game-based learning in history. Several history teachers registered their approval of these NIE initiatives as they made queries about HSSE’s Masters in Humanities Education at the booth set up to promote the postgraduate programme.
Overall, the event went smoothly as planned and was well-received by the history teachers. The ideas, insights and knowledge shared during presentations and discussions at the Symposium provided hints of exciting times ahead in historical instruction and practice in the classroom.