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Historical Thinking Skills for AP U.S. History

Skill 1: Chronological Reasoning

Components

Historical causation

Historical thinking involves the ability to identify, analyze, and evaluate multiple cause-and-effect relationships in a historical context, distinguishing between the long-term and proximate.

Patterns of continuity and change over time

Historical thinking involves the ability to recognize, analyze, and evaluate the dynamics of historical continuity and change over periods of varying lengths, as well as relating these patterns to larger historical processes or themes.

Periodization

Historical thinking involves the ability to describe, analyze, evaluate, and construct models of historical periodization that historians use to categorize events into discrete blocks and to identify turning points, recognizing that the choice of specific dates favors one narrative, region or group over another narrative, region or group; therefore, changing the periodization can change a historical narrative. Moreover, the particular circumstances and contexts in which individual historians work and write shape their interpretations and models of past events.

Skill 2: Comparison and Contextualization

Components

Comparison

Historical thinking involves the ability to describe, compare, and evaluate, in various chronological and geographical contexts, multiple historical developments within one society and one or more development across or between different societies.

Historical thinking also involves the ability to identify, compare, and evaluate multiple perspectives on a given historical experience.

Contextualization

Historical thinking involves the ability to connect historical developments to specific circumstances in time and place, and to broader regional, national or global processes.

Skill 3: Crafting Historical Arguments from Historical Evidence

Components

Historical argumentation

Historical thinking involves the ability to define and frame a question about the past and to address that question by constructing an argument. A plausible and persuasive argument requires a clear, comprehensive and analytical thesis, supported by relevant historical evidence — not simply evidence that supports a preferred or preconceived position. Additionally, argumentation involves the capacity to describe, analyze, and evaluate the arguments of others in light of available evidence.

Appropriate use of relevant historical evidence

Historical thinking involves the ability to identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about the past from diverse sources (written documents, works of art, archaeological artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary sources), with respect to content, authorship, purpose, format, and audience.

Historical thinking involves the ability to extract useful information, make supportable inferences, and draw appropriate conclusions from historical evidence.

Historical thinking involves the ability to understand such evidence in its context, recognize its limitations, and assess the points of view that it reflects.

Skill 4: Historical Interpretation and Synthesis

Components

Interpretation

Historical thinking involves the ability to describe, analyze, evaluate, and create diverse interpretations of the past — as revealed through primary and secondary historical sources — by analyzing evidence, reasoning, contexts, points of view, and frames of reference.

Synthesis

Historical thinking involves the ability to arrive at meaningful and persuasive understandings of the past by applying all the other historical thinking skills, by drawing appropriately on ideas from different fields of inquiry or disciplines and by creatively fusing disparate, relevant (and perhaps contradictory) evidence from primary sources and secondary works. Additionally, synthesis may involve applying insights about the past to other historical contexts or circumstances, including the present.

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