2014 – April – A Literary Lens on Historical Inquiry

A Literary Lens on Historical Inquiry by Maree Whiteley

Maree Whiteley, Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia, wrote an article for the HTAA Primary Bulletin. The article “outlines the literacy demands involved when undertaking historical inquiry”.  A link to the paper appears on the HTAA website:


Click on the link above. This will take you to the History Teachers Association of WA website. Scroll down until you find the heading HTAA Primary Bulletin. Click on the image – April 2014.

Maree would appreciate feedback from teachers to include as reviews of the article as it will be included in the next HTAWA Hindsight Journal. Merredith Southee, one of our Councillors has reviewed this article for our members, and her comments are as follows:

Maree Whiteley’s article is directed at primary school teachers but her comments on teaching pedagogy are relevant to all teachers. The importance of students being engaged and actively making sense of the information they study is essential at all stages of learning. Gone are the days when the teacher poured facts into their pupil’s brains and expected a repetition of those facts in tests. The Australian Curriculum is premised on student-centred learning including the development of student inquiry, critical thinking, cooperative learning, peer teaching, source analysis and creative responses.

The focus of the article reinforces the importance of integrating subjects when teaching the Australian Curriculum. With overloaded teaching programs in the primary classroom this is crucial. Whiteley analyses the clear links between the requirements in the History and English Australian Curriculum documents, and focuses on the inquiry approach to teaching. History texts such as diaries, letters, oral histories, maps, charts and reports provide students with many opportunities to enhance their literacy.

The Inquiry Model, from Bull and Anstey, see Figure 5 in the article, reflects the stages of an historical investigation where students are ‘consuming’ information (reading and interpreting a range of texts) and ‘producing’ creative results. This is an exciting way to build student literacy skills while the students have control of their learning, build curiosity and discover answers to their inquiry questions.

Whiteley also makes clear connections to another way to integrate History and English in the classroom. This is through Historical Fiction. A myriad of picture books and well researched novels exist for primary and lower secondary school students by authors such as Jackie French, Mark Greenwood, Nadia Wheatley and Kristy Murray. Whiteley charts wonderful learning journeys through these novels which build both literacy and historical skills. (See links to Bloom’s Taxonomy in Figure 6).

With the range of content, skills, concepts, General capabilities and Cross-curriculum priorities required in the Australian Curriculum, Whiteley has provided ideas to integrate the English and History curriculum in student-centred and engaging ways.


Merredith Southee
8 June 2014

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