Did the Vikings really have helmets with horns? Sources and narrative content in Swedish upper primary school history teaching

Author: Martin Stolare

Year: 2015

Paper Description

Traditionally, history education in upper primary school has focused on telling stories about the past. However, the recent (2015) Swedish upper primary school syllabus places more emphasis on the procedural aspects of the subject, such as how to analyze historical sources and construct historical arguments.

The author of the article argues that this shift is difficult for teachers to make. This is because they are used to teaching history in a narrative way, and because it can be challenging to teach students how to think critically about historical sources.

Key Takeaway 1

The concept of sources is difficult to apply in history class because it is interdisciplinary and has different meanings in different subjects. This makes it difficult for both teachers and students to understand and use the concept effectively.

Key Takeaway 2

Students have a limited understanding of history, but they can still use the knowledge they have to answer questions and develop a more complex understanding of history. However, teachers should be careful not to focus exclusively on students’ own life experiences, as this can prevent students from developing a deeper understanding of history. Instead, teachers should ask questions that activate students’ prior knowledge of history and help them to think critically about the past.

Standout Quote

“Instead, they claim that it is the factor of reference knowledge that is essential and they have in fact proved that without an historical frame of reference it is very hard for the pupils to interpret historical texts.”


history education, upper primary school, Sweden, narrative history, procedural history, sources, Vikings, class teacher, disciplinary perspective, traditional teaching, change process, students’ prior knowledge, activating students’ knowledge, teachers’ difficulties, importance of teacher knowledge