Concept Acquisition and Conceptual Change in History

Maria Rodriguez-Moneo and Cesar Lopez

Often we see children who are fond of sports, following international competitions with their families, using the concept of ‘country’ or ‘nation’ long before learning it in school. Why are some concepts such as ‘country,’ ‘nation,’ ‘dictatorship,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘king,’ and ‘revolution’ constructed and used by children long before studying them in school contexts? What is the purpose of their intuitive knowledge in the domain of history? What are the features of this knowledge? What impact does it have on the process of learning history in school? How does intuitive knowledge of history change throughout school history learning?

All of these issues are related to the individual construction of historical knowledge and the changes it undergoes as a result of learning. They have been addressed through studies on intuitive knowledge developed for several decades in psychology and in Instructional Science. These studies analyze the construction processes of intuitive knowledge and conceptual change in general, and in relation to each discipline or field in particular (e.g., Rodrfguez- Moneo, 1999; Vosniadou, 2013; White & Gunstone, 2008).

Traditionally, studies on intuitive knowledge and conceptual change have been applied mainly in the fields of mathematics and the experimental sciences

This paper has been written with the support of Projects EDU2013-42531P and EDU2015-65088-P from the DGICYT (Ministry of Education, Spain) coordinated by Mario Carretero. Also this work was conducted within the framework of COST Action IS1205 “Social psychological dynamics of historical representations in the enlarged European Union”.

M. Rodriguez-Moneo (*)

Department of Psychology, Autonoma University, Madrid, Spain C. Lopez

Psychology Department, European University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain © The Author(s) 2017

M. Carretero et al. (eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-52908-4_25

and to a lesser extent in the social sciences and history (Murphy & Alexander, 2008; Pfundt & Duit, 1994; Voss & Carretero, 1998). This is probably because greater importance has been awarded to scientific literacy in comparison to social and historical literacy (Carretero, Castorina, & Levinas, 2013). However, the interest regarding history learning that has been raised in recent decades (Barton, 2008; Van Drie & Van Boxtel, 2008) has contributed to the development of a large number of studies on intuitive knowledge in history. There have been fewer studies conducted on conceptual change.

The objective of this chapter is to analyze the construction of intuitive knowledge and the process of conceptual change in the field of history. The first section of this article addresses the cognitive processes that underlie the construction of intuitive knowledge and conceptual change—bearing in mind the studies on concept formation. In the second part, the cognitive principles referred to in the first part of the article are applied to what has been investigated specifically in the field of history.

In the first section, special attention is paid to the concept formation for two reasons. On one hand, concepts are essential for an in-depth understanding of the nature of intuitive knowledge and the processes of conceptual change (Rodrfguez-Moneo, 2007). On the other hand, concepts are especially relevant in history (Husbands, 1996; Koselleck, 2004) because, among other reasons, they shape the historical narratives of individuals, as it is explained in detail throughout the chapter.

 
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