Home > Strategies and Skill Development > Social Reasoning Strategy Families > Reconciliation > Literature Note - Reconcilation

What we are calling reconciliation has long been recognized as a key feature of reading and writing in disciplines such as history, where distinctions between primary sources and secondary sources, or between reliable and unreliable sources, have long been a concern. When knowledge of what happened must rely on witnesses, and where witnesses may disagree, specific reasoning processes are needed to reconcile all the evidence and produce a coherent causal account.

The evidence indicates that student readers and writers tend to absorb the actual content of a history text fairly well, but not to understand what expert readers of history take as the starting point for interpretation: that a historical account is a reconstruction of the past based upon the interpretation of evidence (Voss, Greene, Post, & Penner, 1983; Voss & Wiley, 2006; Wineburg, 1991a, 1994, 1998). That is, unlike experts, novices tend to read for content, rather than evaluating the reliability of historical sources and the kinds of interpretation that they support given appropriate contextualization (Rouet, Favart, Britt, & Perfetti, 1997; Wineburg, 1991b). There is, however, evidence that students can learn to read with the kinds of critical stances preferred by expert historians, if instruction provides the necessary social and intellectual support (Britt & Aglinskas, 2002; Perfetti, Britt, Rouet, Georgi, & Mason, 1994; van Drie & van Boxtel, 2007; Wolfe & Goldman, 2005).

Britt, M. A., & Aglinskas, C. (2002). Improving students' ability to use source information. Cognition and Instruction, 20(40), 485-522.

Perfetti, C. A., Britt, M. A., Rouet, J.-F., Georgi, M. C., & Mason, R. A. (1994). How students use texts to learn and reason about historical uncertainty. In M. Carretero & J. F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences (pp. 257-284). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Rouet, J. F., Favart, M., Britt, M. A., & Perfetti, C. A. (1997). Studying and using multiple documents in history: Effects of domain expertise. Cognition and Instruction, 15(1), 85-106.

van Drie, J., & van Boxtel, C. (2007). Historical reasoning: Towards a framework for analyzing students' reasoning about the past. Educational Psychology Review, 20(2), 87-110.

Voss, J. F., Greene, T. R., Post, T. A., & Penner, B. C. (1983). Problem-solving skill in the social sciences. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (pp. 165-213). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Voss, J. F., & Wiley, J. (2006). Expertise in history. In K. A. Ericsson (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance (pp. 569-584). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Wineburg, S. S. (1991a). Historical problem solving: A study of the cognitive processes used in the evaluation of documentary and pictorial evidence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(1), 73-87.

Wineburg, S. S. (1991b). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 495-519.

Wineburg, S. S. (1994). The cognitive representation of historical texts. In G. Leinhardt, I. Beck, & C. Stainton (Eds.), Teaching and learning in history (pp. 85-135). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wineburg, S. S. (1998). Reading Abraham Lincoln: An expert/expert study in the interpretation of historical texts. Cognitive Science, 22, 319-346.

Wolfe, M. B. W., & Goldman, S. R. (2005). Relations between adolescents' text processing and reasoning. Cognition and Instruction, 23(4), 467-502.

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