Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Stephen J. Thornton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael B. Sherry, Ph.D.


discourse, history education, primary sources, critical thinking


Research continues to find discussions in history classrooms to be rather short in length and simplistic in nature, despite the higher aims of historical and critical thinking. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the phenomenon of historical thinking and dialogic discussions in the secondary history classroom. Its goal was to better understand the nature of both, as well as to see if whole-class discussions might serve as a useful means in cultivating historical thinking in students. Given the need for more research in these areas, this study was designed with the hopes of adding to the literature of history education. This study was conducted in an 11th grade U.S. history classroom over the course of four months. Whole-class discussions were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed using both inductive and deductive methods of discourse analysis. The overall finding was that whole-class discussions did provide varied opportunities for students to engage in historical thinking and the nature of that thinking was dependent on many factors such as the initial framing of the discussions, the types of texts and topics selected for discussions, the nature of the particular historical thinking skills at hand, the extent to which the teacher noticed student comments, and the discussion habits of the participants which emerged and became routine over time. This research adds to the growing literature on what factors may constrain or enable historical thinking in discussions and includes unique data samples of history discussions and student historical thinking.