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Teaching Challenges

Encouraging Multiperspectivity

Multiperspectivity can be defined as a way of viewing historical events, personalities, developments, cultures and societies from different perspectives. It is fundamental to history as a discipline, and it helps students to understand that there are other possible ways of viewing the world than one’s own and that these may be equally valid and equally partial. No one is completely free from their own culture and society, and therefore historical work is by definition partial, biased and contains preconceptions. In an multiperspective approach, students learn that interpretations of the past presented as history contain discrepancies, contradictions, ambiguities and are often the focus of dissent. By doing so, multiperspectivity gives a more complex, but also a more complete and richer understanding of the past. To enable students to extend their views beyond the textbook on any given topic, it is important that they have access to a wider range of resources. These could include other textbooks, primary sources and contrasting historical interpretations. Students need to learn how to analyse and interpret these different and contrasting perspectives. To do this they draw upon their historical skills, for example, they assess the quality of the evidence-base and they enquire about the audience and purpose of a perspective as an interpretation. They also gain an insight into why the past can be so divisive in conflict situations. Perspectives about the past can diverge and contrast so far that they are very difficult to reconcile. Therefore, a multiperspective approach to history contributes to the development of the student as a citizen of a democratic society.

Learning Activities