Using genre to describe the progression of historical thinking in school history textbooks
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The focus of this paper is to describe how progression in historical thinking manifests across seven South African textbooks, one each from Grade 3 to Grade 9. This paper argues that one way in which progression in historical thinking is signalled in textbooks is by the genre type of the texts with which learners are required to engage. Our starting premise is that the development of historical thinking requires both substantive and procedural knowledge, or both first order and second order historical concepts. This paper presents only the genre analysis of a broader study which is informed by a combination of concepts from the fields of history education, sociology of knowledge and the genre approach of Systematic Functional Linguistics. The findings indicate that in terms of the texts that learners must read, there is a clear movement from the recording genre to the explaining genre and then to the interpretation genre across the seven books. The complexity of the substantive knowledge also increases as it moves from local contextualised knowledge to knowledge that is removed from the learner’s context in both geography and time (decontextualized knowledge). In terms of writing demands, it is only in Grade 6 that learners commence writing explanations and thus engaging with the concept of cause and effect. It is only in Grade 9 that learners are expected to engage with writing multi-perspectives or to interpret and argue for a particular perspective as they are introduced to a range of different sources. This paper argues that using genre as a methodological tool can illuminate some aspects of progression of both first order and second order concepts in history.