Student understanding of causation in History in relation to specific subject matter – causes behind the scramble for Africa

Anders Nersäter


The purpose behind this paper is to contribute with knowledge for what students might need to learn to master casual reasoning regarding specific subject matter (the scramble for Africa). The History-didactical framework used originates from the Historical Thinking-tradition. Data has been derived from a Learning Study and consists of a total of 138 pre- and post-assessments. Results showed that the following aspects were critical for the participating students’ capability to reason on causation in relation to the scramble: (1) Discern that the scramble had causes; (2) Discern that claims for what caused the scramble need support from evidence; (3) Discern that the scramble had both long-term and short-term causes; (4) Discern the chronological structure relating to the scramble not to confuse causes and consequences; (5) Discern that the scramble had composed causes of differing importance; and (6) Discern that the scramble was caused by interaction between societal structures and the actions from historical actors. A value in these findings is that they can contribute with empirically tested knowledge for what students might need to learn when causation is investigated in relation to specific subject matter. Another value is that the critical aspects found are extracted from a composed analysis originating from the character of the subject, curricular demands and analysis of students’ conceptions before and after research-lessons. Thereby findings can hopefully support planning and implementation of teaching.


second-order concepts; causation; student conceptions; critical aspects

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Copyright (c) 2019 Anders Nersäter

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