Changing thinking about cause

By Alex Ford, published 27th March 2020

Focusing on change and continuity to refine students’ causal thinking at GCSE

Aware both that causation is the bread and butter of the historian’s craft, and that trainee teachers find it far harder to teach well than they anticipate, Alex Ford sought to get to the heart of the problem with causation, especially at GCSE. When teaching to a specification and mark scheme, both of which reward poorly substantiated causal thinking, there is a disincentive to do causation well. Ford got to the heart of the problem by doing a lot of reading – both of pedagogy and of historical scholarship – and came to the conclusion that causal thinking is enhanced by an association with a narrative of change, and that this can and should be delivered at GCSE too. This article charts his thinking, the lessons he designed to test his ideas, and the reaction of pupils and his trainee teachers.

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