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Some examples of significance questions

Taken from Lomas, T. (1989) Teaching and assessing historical understanding, London, Historical Association: 43-5.

With younger pupils:

  • What was the most important reason why Alfred hid from the Danes?
  • Which of these do you think was the most important thing that happened to the village after the opening of the railway? ......
  • Which are the 5 most important reasons why many Victorian children died young?
  • Which of these do you think was not important in helping the Duke to decide to build the castle on this site?
  • In two sentences, what do you think are the two most important points about the Vikings?
  • Do you think that Spain would have defeated England if a ruler weaker than Elizabeth had been on the throne?
  • Could things still have gone wrong for the king even after the death of Wat Tyler?

With older pupils:

  • Which of these do you think made the most important contribution to the development of medicine in the eighteenth century? .....
  • What was the importance of Mundella's Act to nineteenth century education?
  • What was the most important cause/consequence of the Crusades?
  • If killing people is wrong, why was it important to declare war on Germany in 1914?
  • Why might the achievements of Ancient Rome be seen as more important to Britain than those of Ancient Egypt?
  • Put the following sixteenth century events in what you consider as their order of importance, giving reasons for your choice.
  • Why were the consequences of the Irish Easter Rebellion so great, considering that it was a failed rising?
  • Why can 1485 be described as a turning point?
  • What might have happened if the Jacobites had not been defeated at Culloden?
  • Describe the main features of Inca civilisation in no more than 200 words.

(Lomas's book also gives good examples of the sorts of questions one might frame when exploring cause and consequence, time, evidence, and similarity and difference)

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