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3 Draft Leaving Certificate specifications consultations

3 Draft Leaving Certificate specifications consultations

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Overview: Course

The specification for Junior Cycle History provides a framework for students to acquire the historical skills, conceptual understanding and substantive knowledge that lead to a sense of historical consciousness, whereby students can see the world and their place in it from an historical perspective.    It has been designed for a minimum of 200 hours of timetabled student engagement across the three years of junior cycle.
The specification has three interconnected strands, each with a set of related elements:
Strand One: The nature of history; Strand Two: The history of Ireland; Strand Three: The history of Europe and the wider world.

This unifying strand focuses on the nature of history as a discipline.  The strand emphasises the skills, concepts, values and attitudes that inform the learning of history.  It helps to form students as historians.

There are three interrelated elements to strand 1:

  • Developing historical consciousness
  • Working with evidence
  • Acquiring ‘the big picture.’

Each element is associated with a range of learning outcomes that set out what the student should know or be able to do, following their engagement with the strand.

As strand 1 is the unifying strand, it is intended that its learning outcomes should inform students’ engagement with strands 2 and 3, which are contextual strands.  The skills, concepts, values and attitudes that are central to the work of the historian should inform and underpin engagement with the historical personalities, issues and events that students will encounter in strands 2 and s.

NB: Therefore, while the learning outcomes in strand 1 can of course be addressed discretely and prior to engaging with strands 2 and 3, they should also permeate the learning when students are engaging with substantive historical context in strands 2 and 3.

A sense of chronological awareness and appreciation of date patterns should be a strong focus of this integration of learning across all three strands.  Developing and maintaining timelines is a means of allowing students to engage meaningfully with this aim.
This structure is consistent with a non-linear approach to engaging with learning outcomes.   Strands 2 and 3 provide the context for students to deepen their understanding of the nature of history as a discipline.  Therefore, the learning outcomes in strand 1 will be integrated with those in strands 2 and 3.  This does not preclude teachers from engaging separately with learning outcomes in strand 1.  For example, teachers may work with students on acquiring 'a big picture' in terms of an overarching framework of the past before looking more specifically at learning outcomes in strands 2 and 3, or may explore concepts such as 'cause and consequence'.

Element: Developing historical consciousness

Being historically conscious means that students acquire a distinctive way of seeing the world and their place in it from an historical perspective.  They are aware of the impact of change, both short-term and long-term, on the human condition and in different spatial and temporal contexts.  They also have a sense of historical empathy or regard for the motivations and actions of people in the past, in the context of their time.  They can make judgements about the significance of events in the past, and appreciate the need to examine controversial or contested issues from more than one perspective.  Historically-conscious students are mindful of how their environment has been shaped by people and events in the past and bring this historical sensibility to bear in their appreciation of human achievement.  Concepts such as viewpoint and objectivity, and cause and consequence, are also considered in this strand element.

Element: Working with evidence

This element relates to the fundamental role of evidence in enabling students to understand the past.  Students explore the nature of source and evidence and make judgements about the usefulness and limitations of different types of evidence.  Students appreciate the provisional nature of historical judgements and that such judgements may need to be revised in the light of new evidence.  Students explore different types of repositories of historical evidence.  Students explore how archaeology and new technology assist historians in forming judgements about the past.

Element:  Acquiring ‘the big picture’

The notion of the ‘big picture’ relates to the idea of a usable historical framework that allows students to see the past in a broad global context.  A ‘big picture’ framework helps students to see significant patterns of change over time.  As students learn, they can place their new knowledge and understanding in this framework, extending it and deepening it as they continue to ask questions of the past and acquire new knowledge and understanding.  The ‘big picture’ also allows for students to deepen their chronological understanding and to appreciate how history is characterised by ‘eras’ or ‘ages’ of change.  A rapidly-taught ‘big picture’ of the past can be revisited and developed regularly over the three years of students’ learning in junior cycle.

Strands 2 and 3 relate to the historical context in terms of personalities, issues and events to which students apply the conceptual understanding and learning gained through strand 1.  Strand 2 relates to the history of Ireland while strand 3 relates to the history of Europe and the wider world.

There are three interrelated elements to Strands Two and Three:

  • Recognising key change    
  • Exploring people, culture and ideas       
  • Applying historical thinking.

Element Overview of Student Learning
Recognising key change
This element relates to key developments in Ireland and in Europe and the wider world in the areas of identity, nation-building, politics and international relations.
  • Key changes / developments in the domains of politics and international relations
  • Important related concepts, including, for example, nationalism, sovereignty, power, authority, ethnicity, conquest, colonisation and identity
  • Nature and impact of distinct civilisations in history
  • Impact of settlement and land ownership on ideas of identity
  • Role of significant individuals as agents of change
  • Impact of war, conflict, revolution and parliamentary democracy in shaping history

Exploring people, culture and ideas

This element relates to the impact of ideas and beliefs about the nature of the human condition, including religious beliefs; ideology; social, economic and cultural ideas.

  • How religious beliefs and practices influenced historical change
  • Impact of new and changing ideas about how people should live and be governed
  • Nature and impact of totalitarian ideologies
  • Impact of such factors as population change, migration, famine, genocide on the lives of ordinary people
  • Role of social, cultural, sporting movements or organisations
  • How women’s lives changed over time


Applying historical thinking
This element allows students to critically apply their understanding and knowledge to different historical enquiries.
  • Connections between people, events and places in the past
  • Application of research skills
  • Ideas around democracy, human rights, equality, peace and justice
  • Sense of historical empathy in exploring people in the past
  • Local, personal or family history
  • Identifying patterns or trends of change over time
  • Concepts such as culture and civilisation and power and authority
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