Does students’ heritage matter in their performance on and perceptions of historical reasoning tasks?

Anne Lise Halvorsen, Lauren Harris, Gerardo Aponte Martinez, Amanda Slaten Frasier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This mixed methods study explores how high school students (N = 35) enrolled in a US charter school with a high Latino/a population perform on and perceive (in terms of interest and relevance) document-based type historical reasoning tasks: one about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and the other about the experiences of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the 1920s. Students wrote essay responses and completed perception inventories about the tasks. We also interviewed 10 focal students to delve more deeply into students’ thinking regarding the tasks and their interest levels in the two topics. We scored students’ responses along the criteria of historical claims, substantiation of claims, use of evidence from documents, sourcing of documents and contextualization. Our hypotheses were that students would perform better on, and be more interested in, tasks that were culturally relevant to them. We found that although students did not perform differently on the two tasks overall, students’ perceptions of the tasks differed, with a significantly greater interest in the task about Mexicans and Mexican Americans. We address the complexity of these findings and discuss implications for curriculum and practise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-478
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016


  • History instruction
  • content area writing
  • cultural background
  • minority group students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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