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This article addresses the place of historical significance in the New Zealand senior secondary school history curriculum and provides an indication of what historians, teachers and students see as significant in the past. The concept of historical significance is important for students in understanding how the discipline of history operates and developing the capacity to think historically. In New Zealand this procedural concept has recently emerged as a focus of concern because of the shift from a prescriptive history curriculum to a framework that allows teachers considerable autonomy in how their programmes are shaped. The only proviso is that their courses are to be 'of significance to New Zealanders'. However the question of significance is potentially problematic. Historians' views about what is significant in the past are diverse and typically change over time. This study investigated which aspects of the past were prioritised by historians, teachers and senior secondary school students. The main finding was that historians (as disciplinary experts) and students (as novices) had different understandings about why particular aspects of the past were significant. This finding has implications for teachers of history.


Journal article


New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

Publication Date





35 - 45