The problem with general ability statements in history education

Clio et cetera

Progression models are frequently constructed from ‘ability’ statements. Put simply, if you have an ability, it means you can do something. It is therefore quite common to see progression models in history education containing statements saying “pupils can construct causal arguments” or “pupils can critique interpretations of the past”. The rationale behind this is not hard to see. As a history teacher, I want my pupils to become more able in the discipline. Expert historians spend their time constructing causal arguments and critiquing interpretations, and it would therefore seem to follow that a progression model for history education ought to contain ability statements about these disciplinary practices.

But there is a problem with this. I have been studying and teaching history for years, and I would like to think that I can say “I have the ability to write a causal argument”. Yet if you were to ask me now…

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