Studying histories of ideas to learn about
Continuity & change
The strategy requires students to use key skills involved in historical thinking – chronological and geographic placement of important events – to contextualise the evolution of influential ideas that have shaped history.
Chronologically and geographically locating events related and/or integral to the evolution of an idea could help students understand the influences, relations, and exchanges that determined, and continue to determine, the construction of ideas that currently prevail on the continent.
The study of these ideas’ evolution, quite often characterised by conflict and controversy, offers a great opportunity to engage students with history from the perspective of difference and diversity. The proposed strategy also allows students to discuss complex and divisive issues that have informed the evolution of ideas on the continent. You can access the free webinar here or by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
Author of the strategy
Juan Carlos Ocaña is the Head of the History Department and the Bilingual Program at IES Parque de Lisboa in Alcorcón, Madrid. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy (History and Geography) from the Universidad Autónoma, Madrid and is the author of various Spanish textbooks for Secondary Education. He was a Fulbright Grantee to the Summer 2004 Fulbright American Studies Institutes for Secondary School Educators.
Juan Carlos’ strategy – Studying the history of ideas to learn about continuity and change – requires students to use key skills involved in historical thinking – chronological and geographic placement of important events – to contextualise the evolution of influential ideas that have shaped history. Chronologically and geographically locating events related and/or integral to the evolution of an idea could help students understand influences, relations, and exchanges that determined, and continue to determine, the complex construction of ideas that currently prevail on the continent.
This lesson plan is part of a five-part teaching strategy series designed and tested by teachers for teachers. The overall aim of Sharing European Histories is to help young people understand the complexity, multiplicity, and transnational character of European history and recognise how history can engage everyone in understanding Europe. For more information, go to the Sharing histories website.
Aim of the strategy
The strategy is primarily aimed at teaching the evolution of widely-shared ideas. Chronological thinking and geographic placing will help students to contextualise contemporary prevailing ideas.
The strategy also allows the students to discuss some controversial issues that have marked the development of the main ideas that are prevalent in Europe nowadays.
Download the full pdf strategy here.
Exemplar learning and teaching materials
In order to demonstrate this strategy in action, I have created learning and teaching materials for the study of how the concept of rights developed over time.
These resources may be suitable for pupils aged between 14 and 18, depending on the reading age of the pupils. All complex terminology is hyperlinked in the resources provided below. Pupils do not need any prior knowledge to be able to access the learning materials.
Pupils could be organised into small groups in order to pool their thoughts about the concept of rights. They should appoint a scribe who will note their ideas on a large sheet of paper, or the worksheet below. You can download the pdf worksheet below by clicking on the image below.
The teacher could ask the groups to collectively decide on the five most important or significant responses and record them either in the centre of the paper that they have just used or on the worksheet below. All group members should agree on the top five items. You can download the pdf worksheet below by clicking on the image.
Repeat the exercise on a class-scale and ask for the class to come up with a final top five and develop a definition of the idea collectively. You can download the pdf worksheet below by clicking on the image.
Some key milestones and individuals could be introduced to the class as shown below. Pairs or small groups of students are each given a different event or individual that has contributed to the evolution of rights. The small groups are asked to prepare and give 5 minute presentations on their event or individual in front of the class. You can download the pdf worksheets below by clicking on the image.
In order to introduce some of the main ideas and the evolution of rights over time, students could watch and take notes from the following video (Access this video on YouTube here):
The worksheet below could be used to help students structure their ideas and research.
In order to widen accessibility to this task, information sheets have been created for each of the 10 events/individuals that are central to the evolution of rights. Download this pdf pack by clicking the image below.
You may also wish to access the following flippable ebook. This ebook contains hyperlinked text to help provide definitions and deeper understanding of ideas and concepts. Embedded within the ebook are videos that students can access to further deepen their understanding of the evolution of rights. The ebook works on any device and can be downloaded, enlarged and printed (as a whole book or selected pages). Click on the image below to gain access or find the static pdf book here.
Pairs or groups write basic information (name/title/date) about their event on a piece of paper and then arrange themselves in a human chronological timeline to show the evolution of the ideas and influences on the development of rights. If there are local restrictions on such an activity, students may use the worksheet below to determine the chronological order of the events and influences on the development of rights. You can download the pdf worksheet below by clicking on the images below.
Students could now locate these different events and individuals on map. This way the students will create a visual aide that they can then use to contextualise the evolution of rights across time and space.
The teacher could move to a whole class discussion in order to deepen students' comprehension of rights as a concept and its evolution. Question prompts are shown on the image below: click on the image to download.
For a group that would enjoy an additional challenge and wider debate, the following questions can be used as a prompt. Click on the image to download.
All of the worksheets above can be downloaded as a combined pdf here.
The webinar can be accessed here or by watching it below: