Primary Children’s Developing Conceptions of historical Time: analysing approaches to teaching, learning and research.

Submitting Institution

Liverpool Hope University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Hodkinson's work has significantly affected children's learning of history and has been instrumental in the formulation of the new curriculum for 2014. He has been called upon over the past 15 years to provide expert advice to the media (television and newspapers), curriculum planners and Government Ministers. His research on chronology has also significantly impacted upon, Initial Teacher Training, Continuing Professional Development (CPD), teachers' pedagogy and is employed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate in their work with schools as an example of effective teaching. Most recently all schools in England received a pamphlet on the teaching of the new history curriculum which included exemplar material based upon Hodkinson's research work in chronology.

Underpinning research

Dr. Hodkinson's work studies the interrelations between a child's memory, reading ability, mathematical ability, intelligence, chronological age, gender, social class and teaching method and how such factors effect children's capabilities of retaining historical information. Hodkinson's research commenced in 1995 when an undergraduate student at Liverpool Hope and developed throughout his career, most recently, as an Associate Professor. His empirical work, the first of its type, undermined 80 years of cognitive research asserting that chronological understanding is positively correlated to maturation [Evidence 3.1&3.2]. The fact that historical time can be taught and specific teaching methods significantly affect children's ability to retain historical knowledge is the focus of the case study.

Dr. Hodkinson has published numerous articles in teacher education periodicals, newspapers and in CPD material for the Historical Association [Evidence 3.3]. Indeed, the significance of this work was recognised by the rare award of a Research Fellowship of the Historical Association in 2009 [Evidence 5.2]. Professional papers on chronology have been located in numerous professional journals [some 10 to date — Evidence 3.4]. Indeed, Dr. Hodkinson, in 2011, was invited to edit a special edition of Primary History — the only professional subject journal in this field — on the subject of chronology [Evidence 3.4]. With contributions from the lead H.M.I for History Michael Maddison he demonstrated how chronology is best taught to primary aged children. In a second work, Hodkinson was funded by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to produce a national website for teachers that demonstrated best practice in chronology. He was also commissioned by `Teacher's TV', to write and produce two television programmes based upon his research work. This work has significantly impacted upon the teaching and learning of primary history in schools [Evidence 5.1 and 5.6].

Dr. Hodkinson's work has also influenced educational curricula. In 1998 he was a member of the working party that reviewed the QCA schemes of work for history. In addition, in 2000, he was invited to help revise the History National Curriculum. He was also the Historical Association's representative for the curriculum review led by Professor Rose. [text removed for publication] In 2013 a draft scheme of work for History was released for consultation. For the first time there will be a mandatory requirement that the curriculum is taught in chronological order. This orientation of teaching is one of the main recommendations of Hodkinson's research. [This section supported by Evidence 5.1 and 5.6]

Dr. Hodkinson's work has also been subject to press attention and referenced as good practice by UNESCO. These publications demonstrate how teaching of chronology is poor and how his research suggests that children's abilities in the learning of chronology have been seriously underestimated.

References to the research

Hodkinson' work was entered in RAE 2008

1. Hodkinson, A. (2004). Does the National Curriculum for History and its Schemes of work effectively promote primary aged children's assimilation of the concepts of historical time? Some observations based upon current research, Educational Research, 46(2), 99-119.


2. Hodkinson, A. (2009). To date or not to date, that is the question: a critical examination of the employment of subjective time phrases in the teaching and learning of primary history, International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research. 8(2), 39-50.

3. Teacher rewrites history, Times Educational Supplement, 26/06/04.

4. Primary History (59) available at:

Details of the impact

Dr. Hodkinson's research into temporal cognition has been disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, professional association journals, pre-service and CPD activities, websites, newspapers, international report and television programmes. This dissemination has led to an increased public and professional awareness of the issues concerned with the teaching and learning of primary history in general and specifically in the area of chronological understanding.[Evidence 5.1, 5.2 & 5.3]

Dr. Hodkinson left his employment as a primary school teacher to undertake research to understand why many children fail in their general understanding of history and specifically of chronology. Having conducted, what has been observed to be ground breaking research in this area [Evidence 5.1& 5.6], he was committed to ensuring that the work was disseminated beyond a Higher Education audience and that he engaged the teaching profession with these issues [Evidence 5.1, 5.2 & 5.6]. To this end, he has actively sought out membership of the Primary Committee of the Historical Association — the only body of this kind for teachers of primary history. Through this position he has engaged as a consultant with CPD work both face-to-face and through the innovative uses of electronic CPD units. He has also worked with the History Educators' International Research Network, through one of its founders Professor Jon Nichol, to influence history education in other countries. Such involvement has led to the research being disseminated in Turkey, Iran and also presently in the Netherlands [Evidence 5.1].

Hodkinson's work has directly influenced thinking in terms of the temporal language and that children are capable of assimilating AD and BC historic dates. His work, on the importance of dates, led to four articles being published in the Times Educational Supplement [Evidence 5.3]. His work has also been recognised by educational publishers, not least, Oxford cartographers/ Schofield, who employed him in 2009 & 2010 as a consultant for their major new resource — a world history timeline and British timeline [Evidence 5.4].

The reach of Hodkinson's research impact is evidenced by the viral nature and the proliferation of websites that now promote his work on chronology. A Google search using the key words such as ` Alan Hodkinson chronology' — reveals a wealth of websites that promote Dr. Hodkinson's work in this area. In addition, Dr. Hodkinson's work is referenced in numerous newspaper publications and an international UNESCO report on Effective pedagogy [Evidence 5.5].

The significance of Dr. Hodkinson's impact is evidenced by the invitation he has been offered to be involved with curriculum development at a national level by both the QCA and by government [Evidence 5.6]. His work in this area has been awarded a Research Fellowship of the Historical Association [Evidence 5.2]. The greatest significance would appear to be, that in the draft schemes of work primary history will now be taught in a chronological order for the first time in the history of the National Curriculum [Evidence 5.1, 5.2 &5.6]. Further, the manner in which his work has been targeted in the educational press and the way in which it is employed in teaching training, both in-service and initial teacher education, combined with requests to deliver training work in schools, universities and by the Historical Association evidences the significance of his work in schools.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Executive Editor Primary History, Chair of Primary Committee of the Historical Association-Nuffield Primary History.
  2. CEO, The Historical Association.
  3. Call to bring history to order early on, Times Educational Supplement, 26/06/09.

3. Teacher rewrites history, Times Educational Supplement, 26/06/04.
Matter of Time —Times Educational Supplement, 12/05/08.
Play the dating game — Times Educational Supplement, 25,06/04
1930's books revived to teach pupils traditional British history-The Telegraph, 10/04/10.

  2. UNESCO/ International Academy of Education (2012) `Effective pedagogy in social Sciences'. INTERNATIONAL BUREAU OF EDUCATION
  3. Ex-Senior Curriculum Advisor History QCDA