What is History about?
Subject-specific terms can be found in the glossary.
History invites ākonga to explore the past, present, and future through a variety of sources and perspectives. It nurtures the skills of inquiry and interpretation, and encourages ākonga to think critically. As a research-led discipline, History supports ākonga to grow an informed understanding of the origins of our diverse society in Aotearoa. Central to this understanding is an awareness of the history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles, values, and ongoing relevance.
An awareness of history inspires ākonga to become confident, questioning, and empathetic individuals. Through History, ākonga engage with the past on multiple levels, including personal, local, national, and international. Ākonga will investigate the histories and whakapapa of their communities, Aotearoa, and the wider world, drawing links between these contexts where appropriate.
History presents ākonga with the dilemmas, choices, and beliefs of people in the past, and connects ākonga with the wider world as they develop their own identities and sense of place. As ākonga develop their understanding of the nature of historical inquiry, they employ a robust methodology. They learn to ask and put forward possible answers to important questions, to evaluate evidence, to identify and analyse different interpretations of the past, and to substantiate their arguments and judgements. Ākonga can see why they are learning what they are learning, and debate the significance of the history they learn.
History prepares ākonga for the future because it equips them with knowledge and skills that are valuable and useful throughout life. These include the ability to conduct historical research; to articulate ideas and make them clear to others; to process and synthesise varied and complex materials; to engage with and deconstruct historical narratives; and to give clear and effective presentations across a variety of media. Ākonga learn to embrace rather than be discouraged by the uncertainties of the past and its various interpretations.
Big Ideas and Significant Learning
Big Ideas are derived from the Learning Area essence statement and capture the essence of a subject, ensuring coherence rather than fragmentation of learning. At the subject level, they inform the Significant Learning – learning that is critical for ākonga to know, understand, and do in relation to a subject by the end of each Curriculum Level. This covers knowledge, skills, competencies, attitudes, and also includes level-appropriate contexts ākonga should encounter in senior secondary education.
Significant Learning is collated into a Learning Matrix and progresses across Curriculum Levels 6-8. Teachers can use the Learning Matrix as a tool to construct learning programmes that cover all the 'not to be missed' learning in a subject. There is no prescribed order to the Learning Matrix within each level. A programme of learning might begin with a context that is relevant to the local area of the school or an idea that ākonga are particularly interested in. This topic or context has to relate to at least one Big Idea and may also link to other Big Ideas. The Learning Matrix is designed so that educators have the freedom to create courses that are both flexible and coherent.
The five Big Ideas of History are derived from the Social Sciences Learning Area. Two of these are the nature of history Big Ideas and sit across the top of the Learning Matrix. Three knowledge Big Ideas, shown vertically on the Learning Matrix, weave through the two nature of history Big Ideas.
History is constructed
Histories are constructed by individuals and groups, and reflect the ideas, contexts, and prejudices of their constructors. Construction of histories in the present is limited by the sources that are bequeathed to us from the past. In this, histories are always partial but also dynamic as new sources of evidence, and new interpretations, challenge existing narratives.
Histories are constructed for different purposes and audiences, and across different media. They are not simply a record of what happened in the past. Histories can be inclusive, exclusive, general, or specific. Histories can and do develop and change over time.
These characteristics of history are demonstrated by pūrākau and pakiwaitara, which are integral to mātauranga Māori. These historical narratives, which are often delivered orally and collectively, offer self-aware and sometimes metaphorical constructions of the past.
Understanding that history is constructed gives ākonga permission to partake in the construction and deconstruction of histories themselves. Ākonga will learn to recognise the contexts, ideas, sources, privileges, and prejudices that influence the construction of histories that they encounter. They will come to value the complexity and diversity of history, and reach conclusions that are grounded in evidence.
History is contested
Contestability is at the heart of history – the debates it leads to enhance our understanding of the past and the present. Individuals and groups will agree and disagree on interpretations of and perspectives on histories, historical events, and the evidence that supports these interpretations. Interpretations, such as those of historical significance, may also change over time.
Students of History will develop skills to engage critically with historical narratives and sources from a variety of perspectives, origins, and world views. Students of History will evaluate and acknowledge the strengths and limitations of both the supporting evidence and the various narratives about the past derived from it, while also accepting that finding a single truth or consensus is unlikely. They will recognise that narratives vary between and within groups of people, such as iwi in an Aotearoa context. By recognising that narratives vary, our ākonga, from within and across the groups that make up Aotearoa, will come to appreciate diversification of voice and ways of knowing and understanding. History students celebrate difference because they understand we do not need to agree.
Students who can understand how and why histories are contested will be able to participate more actively in society as informed citizens. The ability to think critically about information and its origins, purposes, and limitations is increasingly important in an age of misinformation, disinformation, and ‘fake news’. Engaging critically with historical sources and narratives involves knowing how to evaluate evidence as a historian.
Power relationships often drive history
Historical events and change are influenced by the way that individuals and communities compete for power and control over resources. Power can be exercised militarily, constitutionally, socially, culturally, personally, and politically. Power can be used to sustain or challenge inequalities, to debate conflicting ideas, to exercise control over others, to promote change or to suppress it. Changes in control over resources have influenced the rise and fall of different communities, and have been the subject of extensive military and social conflict.
While history has at times been overly focused on the powerful, more recently, it has recognised and examined the ways in which power is exercised, resisted, and experienced across whole populations and between groups. It recognises that these relationships are dynamic. History is now concerned with the ways in which power has been experienced and exercised intersectionally – across the lines of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and more.
Place shapes the histories of peoples
It is through places that we know and interpret history. Historical narratives bring places to life, and places give significance to historical narratives. Certain places hold certain mana. While responses to places can change over time, histories always take place somewhere, and every place has histories to tell. Both the events and retellings of history are emplaced.
Place may anchor a sense of identity, and connection to place may create a sense of belonging for people across time. In mātauranga Māori, this is expressed as tangata whenua, a group of people who, through their habitation of and long-standing relationship with a particular place, are recognised by others as having authority over and responsibility for it.
Place is central to history because it affects the ability of peoples to record and pass on their histories. This is not a one-way or deterministic relationship, and the advantages and disadvantages of places tend not to be fixed. Places can be remembered differently, and people have changed and been changed by the environment over time.
Resource rich places confer benefits on occupants but can also become the subject of contests for control over the resources associated with the area.
Identity is interwoven with history and is shaped by whakapapa, whanaungatanga, and tūrangawaewae
Titiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua – History is inextricably linked to the identities of people in the past, as well as to those of people in the present.
For many peoples, relationships with others – who lived in the past, live today, or will live in the future – are central to understanding their histories. History therefore is not linear but relational and entangled. Its non-linear movement shapes our identities, including those we cannot choose, and those we actively choose, when seeking relationships and community.
Understanding this interwovenness of the past, present, and future is crucial to building, shaping, developing, and changing identities. It also gives us insight into how our own identities influence our perspectives and the way we interpret significance of events, peoples, movements, and places. In this way, exploring identity is not only valuable for the personal development of ākonga but also their development of an understanding of the choices and decisions made by individuals and groups in the past.
Key Competencies in History
Developing Key Competencies through History
Learning in History provides meaningful contexts for developing Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. These Key Competencies are woven through, and embedded in, the Big Ideas and Significant Learning. Students will engage with critical thinking and analysis, explore different perspectives on historical events and places, and develop their understanding of the role of evidence in historical research.
Students in History will:
- consider the historical relationships and concepts that are at play within the contexts they are exploring
- think about the role of significance in framing the history they are studying
- evaluate strengths and weaknesses of primary and secondary sources
- weigh conflicting evidence and justify conclusions
- challenge perceptions and assumptions
- consider meta-narratives, which can explain the context of the history being studied
- identify and analyse different interpretations of the past.
Using language, symbols, and texts
Students in History will:
- process and synthesise varied and complex materials, including non-textual sources
- analyse historical evidence, and identify what is missing, incomplete, or inconclusive
- use a variety of media to produce history
- organise the past and construct history, using historical concepts and relationships
- give clear and effective oral and written presentations
- substantiate their arguments and judgements.
Relating to others
Students in History will:
- develop historical empathy, including the ability to think beyond themselves and their personal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds
- engage with different historical contexts and perspectives
- grow an understanding of the origins of our diverse society in Aotearoa
- appreciate differences in how people understand the world
- develop their own identities and sense of place.
Students in History will:
- show initiative in research
- employ a robust methodology
- manage their own assumptions, biases, and perceptions
- persevere with difficult sources and processes.
Participating and contributing
Students in History will:
- take a position, using evidence to support it
- engage in collaborative and group work, as citizens interpreting and understanding sources
- contribute to a body of knowledge or history
- challenge 'myth-takes' of history
- connect with whānau, iwi, and local groups.
This section of New Zealand Curriculum online offers specific guidance to school leaders and teachers on integrating the Key Competencies into the daily activities of the school and its Teaching and Learning Programmes.
Introduction to sample course outlines
Sample Course Outlines are being produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning Matrix and Achievement Standards. The draft Course Outlines that were published at the end of Phase 1, Level 1 product development are now being taken down. Work will continue on these, reflecting the changes noted in the SEG responses, and the additional detail that will be provided in Phase 2 products. They will be re-published for the next cycle of feedback on the Phase 2 products in early August 2021. Exemplars of student work will be provided after the Pilot phase in 2022.
Unpacking The Standards
These statements help to unpack the ways in which the Achievement Standards assess the Significant Learning in the Learning Matrix.
1.1 (Internal) Examine historical sources in context
The Significant Learning this standard assesses is the recognition that histories are constructed from sources and may differ in their construction.
By studying and interpreting historical sources in context, students will develop an understanding of the strengths and limitations of different historical sources. These sources may be primary, secondary, and drawn from a variety of media such as written, oral, and visual texts. The expansion and range of sources now available and legitimately considered within the discipline’s focus means students can also look at furniture, buildings, textiles, wāhi tapu, personal adornment, and more.
Contexts for this standard must relate to one or more of the following themes: power, place, identity.
1.2 (Internal) Demonstrate an understanding of different perspectives on a historical event or place
This standard assesses students’ ability to engage with a variety of perspectives on a historical event or place.
Different perspectives include a variety of individual and/or group viewpoints, which can be drawn from different times and places.
Students will identify a variety of perspectives on a historical event or place, recognise the similarities and differences amongst these, and explain why perspectives differ.
1.3 (External) Demonstrate an understanding of a historical concept
This standard is about communicating understanding of a historical concept in the history of places, events, or peoples.
Historical concepts at Level 6 of the Curriculum include mana, kaitiakitanga, whakapapa, whanaungatanga, tūrangawaewae, wāhi tapu, and vā. Students may also look at the historical relationships of cause and consequence, as well as past and present.
1.4 (External) Explore the significance of a historical context
This standard assesses students’ understanding of historical significance.
Students will study a variety of historical contexts throughout the year. They will explore the significance of these contexts, and how people use different criteria to judge the significance of historical events. Contexts may include places, events, shared identities, and movements.