Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Rhonda Oliver


History is a complex subject. It is more propositional than procedural in nature (Nichol, 1984), and involves adductive thinking (Booth, 1983), where historical evidence and facts are 'teased out' and a convincing account of the past is then reconstructed through speculation, imagination and empathy (Nichol, 1984; Booth, 1983). The teaching and learning of history should not just be the transmission of knowledge, but rather it should involve a process whereby students and teachers interact in order to analyze evidence, raise questions and hypotheses, synthesize facts, and communicate their ideas, understand others' viewpoints, consider values, reflect and engage in moral reasoning (Brophy, 1996). It is through this interaction that development of thinking in history will occur (Coltnam, 1975). The main focus of the research is on the language used in the history classroom, particularly during critical episodes when the teachers and students appeared to be engaged in the process of historical thinking. This research is particularly concerned with historical thought embedded in the language used in history classrooms. To investigate this, both high and low inference coding systems were adopted to code, describe and analyze the verbal behaviour that occurred. The data were gathered in six classes from schools in Singapore. They constituted two classes of above average students (Special stream), two classes of average students (Express stream) and two classes of below average (Normal stream) students. Audio and video recordings were made of two lessons from each of the six classes. These lessons were transcribed, coded and analyzed to ascertain which contexts were more conducive for the production of higher order thought. It was found that a complex interrelationship of factors including pedagogic activity, type of teacher talk and student talk, and even more importantly the interaction between them, determined whether or not there was historical thinking. The findings revealed that there was historical thinking when explicit and implicit contact was established during interaction between the teacher and the students. For explicit contact to he made the teacher and the students needed to be language game (Wittgenstein, 1972). This is where the teacher made those moves that elicited student responses that demonstrated historical thinking. For implicit contact to be made the element of voice (as in the concept of “voice” described in Bakhtin's theory on the dual-voicing and polyphony) becomes essential. During such episodes the teacher mediated between the characters in history, his or her own talk and that of the students. These responses which were often dramatised, the teacher used first and second person forms (dual voicing) to evoke empathy and imagination. In doing so they also engaged in a dialogic interaction with the characters of the past and there was back channelling. There were evidences of such dialogues in all the Special, Express and Normal stream lessons but in various contexts. These dialogues reveal that the nature of talk and interaction is distinct to the subject history.