Promoting historical thinking and critical literacy

Learning history is much more than memorizing dates!

The VH 2.0 was designed to engage students in their own learning of history, to assist them in developing historical thinking competencies. It proposes an innovative approach for the transfer of learning and the application of knowledge through meaningful investigations and problem-solving activities.

The VH 2.0 situates learning in an active and practical context. All history cases are designed to promote inquiry skills, historical knowledge acquisition and the development of critical thinking and literacy skills. To assist students in their strategic and analytical practices, the VH 2.0 offers various learning tools and scaffolds including worksheets, lexicons, and interactive learning guides.

For each history case, practical activities engage students in high cognitive challenges. These challenges build on a series of intellectual processes and key concepts well recognized in history education. Among these processes used in the VH 2.0 are**:

  •      - Adopting an inquisitive and open-minded attitude toward the past and different ways of life
  •      - Establishing the historical significance of the past
  •      - Using primary and secondary source evidence to infer knowledge
  •      - Identifying continuity and change in history
  •      - Analyzing cause and consequences of actions and events in history
  •      - Taking historical perspectives and developing historical empathy
  •      - Understanding the moral dimension of history
  •      - Developing critical literacy skills

Research indicates that learners will not develop indepth understanding and disciplinary competencies when lessons and activities do not provide them with explicit performance goals and tasks. The VH 2.0 follows a conceptual structure of backward design derived from the work of Wiggins and McTighes (2005). It operates on the following model:


*Adaptation of Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, 2nd Edition. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

**Many of these intellectual processes and concepts are taken from The Historical Thinking Project.