Turning First Year History Students into Historians (2014)

Chris Corker & Sarah Holland

The first year module ‘Making History 2: Aspects of Sheffield History’ was redesigned by the presenters two years ago to incorporate an enquiry based, independent research approach, as well as incorporate an introduction to employability, enhance students’ knowledge of Public History and how to ‘do history’, and foster the development of learner autonomy.

Students taking the module work in groups of two to three to work on a piece of research on any aspect of Sheffield history they wish between 1743 and 1918, with emphasis placed on under-researched or new areas of investigation, and use of primary source material. One of the student’s main outputs is an unassessed poster, which is exhibited at a public exhibition.

This paper will highlight our findings from delivering the module for two years based on our own observations and evaluation of the module, and drawing from our surveying of students undertaking the module in the last two cohorts.  Furthermore, we will show that formative assessment is effective in improving engagement when it has an impact on a student’s ability to complete the module assessment. Finally, we will show how allowing students to choose their own topic and area of research is effective in improving their knowledge, engagement and achievement.

This paper builds on work presented at the SHU L&T Conference in 2013 during a thunderstorm session, and is also currently being prepared for publication in SEEJ in 2014.