On 29 October 2015 the History Teachers’ Association of Malta, in collaboration with the Faculty of Education, University of Malta, organised the 14th Michael A. Sant Memorial Lecture. This year’s guest speaker was Michael Fordham who is Assistant Headteacher at West London Free School, Affiliated Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and co-editor of the journal Teaching History. He presented his paper on ‘Substantive knowledge and pupil progression in history.’
The question underpinning the discussion was: What does it mean to get better at history? It was noted that in recent years attention has been focused on gaining disciplinary knowledge, that is, how history works as a discipline and how students make progression in handling second-order concepts, such as ‘evidence’ and ‘change.’ Fordham pointed out that less emphasis has been devoted to substantive knowledge, that is, the content or substance of history. In his paper Fordham argued that getting better at history also requires that pupils progressively build up a greater substantive knowledge of the past, evidenced in their ability to read and write history. In this regard, an initial progression model was developed by history mentors from the University of Cambridge. Indeed, these arguments open up a new research avenue in history education which, as Fordham highlighted, needs further theorisation.