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History Virtual Academy Project

The History Virtual Academy Project: facilitating inter and intra-sector dialogue and knowledge transfer through online collaboration.


Building on previous work (Chapman and Hibbert, 2009; Chapman, 2009; Lavender, 2010), this project will facilitate:

  • online and face-to-face inter and intra-sector dialogue, knowledge transfer and collaboration between sixth form teachers and lecturers, academic historians and an history education academic; and
  • online interaction between second year sixth form students and history and history education academics.

These outcomes will be achieved through the joint construction and deployment by sixth form teachers and lecturers, academic historians, based in a number of institutions, and a history education academic (the Project Leader) of a 'History Virtual Academy' discussion board facility that will embody history education discussion tasks for second year sixth form students from 8 institutions in different parts of the country.

The project will:

  • add to emerging knowledge about the effectiveness and organisation of such collaborative exercises;
  • provide models and a knowledge base for the development of larger scale collaborative projects in future; and
  • build networks that can be drawn upon and developed further in future.

Knowledge exchange: professional development and collaboration

The process of constructing, deploying and evaluating online discussion tasks for students will entail collaboration and the sharing of expertise between and within the three sectors of history education involved in the process and the process, which will take place through online and face-to-face interaction, will involve:

  • sixth form teachers and lecturers disseminating knowledge and expertise about sixth form curricula, pedagogy and students to history and history education academics;
  • history academics disseminating knowledge and expertise about history and about higher education history curricula and pedagogy to teachers and lecturers and history education academics;
  • a history education academic (the project leader) disseminating knowledge and expertise about research into student learning and progression in history and formative assessment to sixth form teachers and lecturers and history academics.

These outcomes will be achieved through online and face-to-face discussion focused on the co-construction of the discussion board tasks and also through the joint analysis and evaluation of the discussion board processes and outcomes once the discussions are complete.

The project will involve at least one experienced academic historian who has experience of participation in inter-sector online discussion exercises (Dr Robert Poole, University of Cumbria) and one experienced history education academic (Dr Arthur Chapman, the project leader), an early career academic and a number of academic historians working in different institutions who do not have prior experience of projects of this nature.The project thus represents a continuing professional development (CPD) opportunity for the majority of the academic participants.

The project also represents opportunities to develop practice in these areas through:

  • opportunities to reflect on and discuss assessment practice through the process of providing formative feedback during the discussion boards and also through the process of evaluating the discussion boarding process;
  • opportunities to engage with sixth formers, of a range of abilities, and with their teachers and thus to gain insights into issues related to student transition between sixth form and higher education study.

The project also represents an opportunity to innovate in discussion board design and e-connectivity between institutions and the project will add to existing pedagogic knowledge and pedagogic practice by innovating in structural and technical aspects of discussion board design.

 Enriching student learning

The process of participating in the discussion boards will provide a valuable learning experience for participating students and enhance their sixth form learning experience by providing:

  • an opportunity to interact with students from other sixth forms and to refine and develop key historical skills and abilities (notably, historical argument)
  • an opportunity to interact with academic historians and thus opportunities for
    • cognitive challenge
    • increased understanding of particular areas of historical learning (notably, understanding of historiography and historical interpretation)
    • an insight into the experience of teaching and learning at university level.

The discussion board design will ask students to debate historical problems with each other and with history academics and, during this process, students will receive formative academic feedback and comment on their individual and collective responses to these problems. Academic feedback and comment will also model key aspects of historical thinking for students.

It is also intended that the discussion boards will focus on topics that students will be studying and preparing for examination in and thus also provide opportunities for the revision and further development of historical subject knowledge (this cannot be guaranteed at this stage until participating institutions have been confirmed).

Transition between school and college study and higher education is widely identified in the literature as a matter of concern and (Derham and Worton (eds), 2010) and, in history education literature, transition issues relating to understandings of the nature of historical study have been identified as particularly significant (Booth, 2005). Previous work (Chapman, 2009(a) and Chapman and Hibbert, 2009) has resulted in contributions to practical guidance for professionals seeking to address transition issues (Lavender, 2010) and this project will add to knowledge relating to strategies to address transition issues: the project provides a mechanism for addressing transition issues with the cohort of students it involves and also a model that can be offered to the wider history education community.

The Phase II Final Project Report is now available.

Take a look at the Phase I final project report: Supporting High Achievement and Transition to Higher Education Through History Virtual Academies. 

Sample Academic Video Posting on the HVA: American Civil War