Agora (2022/Issue 1) – Knowledge v Skills

Agora is a journal of curated professional reading for history teachers. This digital download of the latest issue explores the complex balance that must be struck between teaching historical knowledge and historical skills. While some of the issue’s contributors argue that delivering knowledge is fundamental to achieving the outcomes required by the History curriculum, others counter that developing the skills to find, question and interpret sources from multiple perspectives will leave students better equipped as citizens as history unfolds throughout the course of their lives. A focus on teaching knowledge or skills is not a binary choice—the edition as a whole explores the nuances of balancing and interweaving the two.

Print copies of Agora are available by annual subscription.


About this item






Reflection | Bianca Crawford
Editorial | Guy Nolch


THEMA | Reflections on the theme

Four Approaches to the Knowledge Versus Skills Problem in the Teaching of History | Robert John Parkes
A focus on knowledge or skills in History teaching can lead students to accept or question a single account of the past, or even leave multiple accounts in contention.

Reflections on The Big Six | Tom Morton
Reflecting on the influence of The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts on History teaching, its co-author believes they can be made more powerful by connecting them to narratives that support the teaching of three controversial issues.

Skills v Content: A False Dichotomy? | Ben Lawless
Knowledge lacks significant meaning without the accompanying skill base to analyse it.

The Power of Knowledge | Ashley Keith Pratt
The argument that knowledge is merely a delivery mechanism for skills misunderstands the crucial role that knowledge plays in developing student understanding of their world, and in creating a coherent and sequenced curriculum.

From Historical Thinking Concepts to Historical Thinking Skills | Elisa A. Litvin
The historical thinking concepts that underpin Victoria’s History Curriculum teach students to use the same habits of mind that historians use in their own practice.

Focusing on Knowledge or Skills Is a Question of Cognitive Load | James Sach
Knowledge committed to long-term memory frees up the working memory available to apply that knowledge.

Curriculum Choice and Planning for Student Agency | Tom Hopwood
Student agency is the measurement of how much student learning is ‘theirs’ rather than ‘given to them’. This demands careful, thoughtful and controlled deployment of subject content.

Historical Knowledge and Skills Underpin Democratic Citizenship in a Diverse Classroom | Nyree Wilson
The Victorian History Curriculum can provide students with the skills and knowledge required to support a thriving democracy by considering multiple points of view.

Gathering Knowledge and Interpreting Sources to Write Historical Fiction | Alli Sinclair
Like historians, writers of historical fiction apply historical thinking and research skills to delve into the past before packaging their knowledge for a broad readership.


PRAKTIKOS | Teaching Ideas

How to Hook Students Who Are Hostile to History | Ralph Jackman
By focusing on the many ways we use historical skills, disengaged students can see how history touches everything from their daily interactions to their highest aspirations.

The Writing Revolution in the History Classroom | Gordon Brown
Some simple writing tasks can help students express complex historical thinking.

Acronyms that Build Confidence with Source Analysis | Katrina Davey
The use of acronyms can reduce student concerns about analysing sources and bring a uniform approach to teaching historical skills.

Juggling Historical Knowledge and Skills in the Primary Classroom | Karen Rogers
The curriculum directs primary teachers of History to incorporate knowledge, skills, capabilities and cross-curricular priorities in their classroom practice. Four exercises that elicit different types of thinking can help you implement these requirements.

Applying the Skills and Knowledge of the Museum to the History Classroom
Sharing how history is practised in museums can help students understand how historical knowledge is shaped and changes, see the complexity of primary sources, and establish significance.


SUNGRAPHO | Original Research

Breaking through the Dichotomy between Historical Knowledge and Skills | Paul Kiem
We are overdue for an evaluation of what has been achieved by an unbalanced focus on skills.