Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Michael J. Berson, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

J. Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James A. White, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Candace A. Roberts, Ph.D.


social studies, technology, primary sources, secondary sources, historical understanding, think aloud, constructivism, hypermedia, expertnovice design


In time, more historical documents have become accessible through various technological modes including the Internet, CD-ROMs, and local databases. Teachers are now able to infuse a rich variety of resources into lessons with relative ease. This study measured expert historian heuristics in secondary students engaged in analysis of technologically-enhanced historical documents relating to women in the early United States republic. Nine 10th grade Advanced Placement world history students from an urban high school in the southeastern United States were assigned randomly to one of three conditions: paper historical documents, HTML historical documents, and HTML historical documents with simulated, limited Internet access. Using a think-aloud protocol developed by Jonassen et al. (1999), the qualities and frequencies of expert historian heuristics were measured.

The findings support and enhance previous research related to how secondary students learn history while performing a task using primary and secondary source documents and the effects of hypermedia technology. Most of the time, students engaged in a simplistic read-and-react pattern, except for two participants who recognized greater levels of subtext. The two students account for slightly more than 50% of all heuristics. Moreover, the students in general failed to perceive nuances between the documents, engaged in presentism, and viewed history as a uniform expansion of civil rights and increased opportunities. However, all the participants achieved some level of understanding indicating that women enjoyed fewer rights than their white, male counterparts.

In the HTML groups, the participants moved within and between the documents with greater frequency and nonlinearly. While in the Internet group, forays to the simulated Internet invoked a high proportion of expert heuristics and resulted in statements of clear understanding. The results imply that computer technologies promote authenticity and learner control. Furthermore, expert heuristics can help students manage information from the Internet. In addition, the paucity of heuristics exhibited by most subjects suggests a lack of prior knowledge and inexperience with historical documents. This may be a result of the way history is taught in the schools. The results are discussed within the framework of previous research and the cultural wars.