Stimulating Historical Reasoning in Inquiry-based Learning Lessons in Primary Education

View in Dutch

Full name: Stimulating historical reasoning in Inquiry-based learning lessons in primary education: development and evaluation of a professional development programme for elementary school teachers.

Funding Agency: NWO – Dutch Research Council

This PhD-research project is about historical reasoning in elementary schools. The main question of my research is: How can a professional development programme (PDP) assist elementary school teachers to stimulate historical thinking and reasoning in children between 8 and 12 years old, using inquiry based learning.

The aim of history education is developing historical awareness in children. This development is stimulated by learning how to critically assess and reason with historical sources and to use these to create new coherent histories. Historical reasoning skills encompass sourcing, contextualization and argumentation using concepts like continuity and change, cause and consequence and similarities and dissimilarities. Based on existing research, inquiry based learning appears to be a fitting approach to help children develop historical reasoning skills. However, as elementary school teachers themselves need to be skilled in historical reasoning before they can teach historical reasoning, the research focuses on professional development of teachers in historical reasoning.

Research questions are:
1. What are characteristics of a PDP that stimulates historical reasoning through inquiry based learning, that fits daily practice in upper elementary school classes and is appreciated by teachers?
2. To what extent does the PDP ‘historical reasoning through inquiry based learning’ result in a change of teachers’ knowledge and skills of historical reasoning and in change of epistemological beliefs about history and inquiry based learing?
3. To which extent do teachers participating in the PDP ‘historical reasoning through inquiry based learning’ realise historical reasoning in their classrooms?

The project aims to develop:
– a PDP for elementary school teachers in which they develop their historical reasoning skills and learn how to teach children how to reason historically, using historical source material in guided inquiry based learning lessons.
– a method for historical reasoning for Dutch elementary schools (in collaboration with the participating teachers).
– validated research instruments for further research in the field of historical reasoning in elementary education.


Funding Agency: NWO – Dutch Research Council

Project Members:

  • Yolande Potjer, MA (PhD Researcher);
  • dr. Marjolein Dobber (Daily Supervisor);
  • prof. dr. Carla van Boxtel (PhD-Supervisor);

Project Website: 



Yolande Potjer,