Historical Thinking in Higher Education: Staff and Student Perceptions of the Nature of Historical Thinking

Adele Nye, Marnie Therese Elizabeth Hughes-Warrington, Penelope Ann Russell, Jillian Isobel Roe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article provides an introduction to the results of a nationwide scoping study of student and staff perceptions of the nature and roles of historical thinking. In 2008-09, over 1400 students and 50 staff from 12 universities around Australia completed interviews and questionnaires. This research report examines student and staff responses to the second questionnaire item, asking for an assessment of the connection between particular activities and historical thinking. The national data reflected a surprisingly consistent pattern of responses and highlighted at least three things which should be of interest and concern to academics: first, studetns far more than their teachers associated the handling of secondary sources with historical thinking; second, students drew few connections between online work and historical thinking; and third, there were few discernible differences in the responses of introductory and upper-level students. These findings underscore the need for sector-wide work on promoting primary materials work with students, for developing the opportunities provided by computer-assisted learning and articulating and communicating to students the standards of achievement valued by the profession as marking the development of historical thinking at tertiary level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73.1 - 88
Number of pages16
JournalHistory Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this