Early Career History Teacher: knowledge audit

This blogpost is primarily for colleagues in their first year of teaching history and for their mentors supporting them, but it might well be useful for other colleagues too!

The Early Career Framework (ECF) has now been rolled out nationally. It has been designed to support continuing professional development. As colleagues working with the ECF know, it identifies five core areas of development: behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours presented in eight sections. The ECF is generic as it applies to all teachers at the start of their careers. However, as Ofsted makes clear: “…teachers need solid knowledge and understanding of the subject(s) they teach. As well as this, they need to know how to teach that subject, and, more generally, how to teach. … Content knowledge can be defined as teachers’ knowledge of the subject they are teaching, pedagogical knowledge as teachers’ knowledge of effective teaching methods, and pedagogical content knowledge as teachers’ knowledge of how to teach the particular subject or topic.” (Source: Ofsted: Education inspection framework overview of research (January 2019))

The HA website now has a dedicated section called ‘Beginning Teacher’. It will provide crucial subject-specific support as colleagues follow the ECF and will introduce the wealth of knowledge and materials history teachers have developed over decades, including in the journal ‘Teaching History’. In the section you can find:

  • Teaching for Beginners: from sequence planning, to how to teach historical concepts, and from how pupils learn history to how to assess their progress. This is the place to go to refresh or revise pedagogical content knowledge.
  • Beginning Teachers’ Professional learning: from working with a mentor to engaging with the wider history teaching community. This is the place to go for support to plan subject specific professional development.  
  • Supporting Resources connects colleagues to history teacher blogs and websites, content knowledge podcasts from historians, HA regular features and a reading list.

Colleagues will have arrived into their first history teaching role from a variety of routes. For example, they may have completed undergraduate and masters’ study in history before completing an initial training year with a high level of subject specific education. Alternatively, they may have a degree in a history related subject and have completed a first training year with less focus on the teaching of the subject. It is also possible that they could be an experienced teacher of another subject who has moved into history teaching. All of these colleagues are likely to find some aspects of their first history teaching role challenging. Most colleagues find that in their first year the business of getting to grips with classroom history teaching is all consuming. In the process they, or their mentor, may diagnose a practice problem that stems from a gap in knowledge. For example, pupils may be ‘all at sea’ with the topic they are studying and it could be because not enough attention has been placed on ‘world-building’ to give them a secure base, or a framework, for building their knowledge. Or perhaps pupil behaviour management is an issue because lesson pacing is a problem and so a return to some thinking about planning a good history lesson is needed. There could be any number of practice issues that emerge and so the HA has put together this audit document.

Using a simple RAG (red, amber, green) rating, colleagues can audit their history teaching knowledge and identify any gaps that they need to fill and/or support they need if they feel less secure in their knowledge. The audit provides support by guiding colleagues to where they can gain/refresh the necessary knowledge for a beginning history teacher if their audit identifies some areas as amber/red. Links to the relevant ECF sections are provided.

The audit could usefully be done as the year starts. Alternatively, it might be done part way through the first year to identify areas where the beginning teacher would benefit from revisiting and rethinking their practice. Colleagues beginning to teach history will benefit from working on this audit with a mentor, both in the initial audit and then as they work on the areas identified as gaps in, or insecure, knowledge.

If you are mentoring an Early Career Teacher you might want to join this term’s webinar series. Look out for more subject specific resources and support for Early Career Teachers later in the year!

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