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Understanding Historical Thinking Standards

Understanding Historical Thinking Standards

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, students evaluate the historical thinking standards, their origins, their purpose, and the five parts of the standards.

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Source: Image of UCLA Department of History Logo, Fair Use,

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In this tutorial, we'll explore the Historical Thinking Standards. We'll begin by talking about the history of these standards and then we'll look at an overview of the standards themselves. Finally, we'll share some considerations that you should keep in mind as you consider working with the Historical Thinking Standards.

Let's get started. The Historical Thinking Standards were developed by the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1996. The purpose of these standards was to develop historical thinking skills by having students ask questions, seek evidence, refer to primary and secondary sources, evaluate data, and consider historical context in the understanding of historical events and people in history.

The Historical Thinking Standards are divided into five interconnected dimensions related to historical thinking skills. First is chronological thinking, or putting history and its chronological order. Second is historical comprehension. Being able to determine what is fact versus what is interpretation of history and being able to read and interpret maps, graphs, and charts.

Third, historical analysis and interpretation. For example, consulting multiple sources of information in order to make interpretations or comparing and contrasting. Fourth, historical research capabilities. Being able to locate different sources of information and identify credible sources. And fifth, analysis and decision making in the context of historical issues.

That is, being able to look at a problem that occurred in the past, identify possible alternative, solutions, or perhaps take sides on that historical issue. These dimensions of historical thinking can be applied to all genres and grade levels of history, from US history to world history to even elementary school historical content. Here's an important item to consider.

History, social studies, and geography all have multiple content standard sources to choose from. The Historical Thinking Standards work as a framework that helps to develop students historical thinking skills while still using the specific content standards. In other words, these historical Thinking Standards aligned to the history, social studies, and geography content standards while promoting the skills that are necessary for students to learn to think like historians.

They provide support for social studies teachers as they design lessons and units. They connect directly to the content being studied instead of functioning independently of the content so teachers can embed these historical thinking standard skills right within their social studies content.

To take a closer look at the standards, you can visit this web address. In this tutorial, we learned that the Historical Thinking Standards were developed by UCLA in 1996 with the goal of developing historical thinking skills in students. We looked at an overview of the Historical Thinking Standards and we shared an important consideration to keep in mind.

As you consider implementing the Historical Thinking Standards. Now it's your turn to stop and reflect. If you teach social studies curriculum at any grade level, can you see how the Historical Thinking Standards might fit in with your already established curriculum? For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Understanding Historical Thinking Standards"

(00:00 - 00:21) Introduction

(00:22 - 00:50) History

(00:51 - 02:04) Overview

(02:05 - 02:57) Considerations

(02:58 - 03:19) Review

(03:20 - 03:52) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Introduction to Standards in Historical Thinking

This is UCLA's Department of History website, the official site of the Historical Thinking Standards. These standards can be used with any history, social studies, or geography standards; they emphasize the skills necessary for students to think like an historian. By clicking on the "History Standards" tab, you will find the National History Standards. In addition, you will find a valuable resource aligning the history standards with the CCSS . National History Education Clearinghouse Blog

There are so many history standards. When combined with the addition of the Historical Thinking Standards and the related CCSS, aligning lessons and curriculum can become overwhelming. offers practical strategies on incorporating the standards into lessons and curriculum. You can scroll down to watch videos of historical thinking in action in classrooms.