Learning about History and historical knowledge with Projects based on Learning
Why is the Middle Ages so important for us? This project, developed during the first term of the course, has provided to my students a deep reflection about the significance of the Middle Ages and about the essence of historical knowledge. The teacher wanted to design a challenging problem or question based on History, which encouraged to students into a reflection process. In this process, critique and revision, students voices and choices and the creation of a public product should be especially appreciated. So the project resulted very ambitious for them because they had to investigate about what we know about the past and how we can interpret it.
The first phase of the project was focused on a historical investigation. The class was divided in different groups who had to explore different topics related with our medieval heritage and how it affect to the understanding of the present world. The students dove in several inventions or important issues which were born or reborn en the Middle Ages and they linked them to the present. The final products of these investigation tasks were concept maps made with Popplet. I would like to share with you some of the concept maps created by them:
- Arabic numberals
- Parliaments and Local Governments
- Banks and moneylenders
- Medieval stock markets
- History of printed books
- Windmills and energy
After this stage of the project, the pupils began to prepare their presentations to the rest of the class. From this moment, the project moved on the historiographical interpretation of the past. They were grouped according to the similitudes of their topics in four big teams: Economy, Politics, Science and Technology and Culture. The goal of this phase was to collaborate to convince to their partners that economic, political, scientific or cultural events are more important than the rest to explain historical changes. So it supposed an approximation to different ways or styles to build historiographical knowledge. Where modern historiographical tendencies focus on, was the target of this part of the project.
The students prepared their oral expositions with a SWOT analysis template, in which each field meant:
- Strenghts: main content points of their topic, ideas that were necessary to mark during the presentation.
- Opportunities: common strategies shared by different groups to convince to the rest of the class about the relevance of their ideas.
- Weaknesses: possible questions that could affect to the coherence of their ideas.
- Threats: bad practices that were necessary to avoid, such as lack of preparation of coordination.
During the presentation of each concept map, the students had to inquire and to evaluate to their partners with a rubric. The teacher evaluated the use of grammar, specific vocabulary and also pronunciation while the students valued the presentation of the contents and the quality of the answers that the students gave to different questions. After the presentations, an amazing discussion started about what kind of historical events are the most important. All the students understood that it’s very difficult to raise one kind of events over the rest to explain the complexity of History. In my view, the project provided to students a lot of meaningful learning, because they were concerned by the main aims of History as a humanistic science: the description and the interpretation of the past to understand the present.