The study explored the central tenets of critical thinking and historical thinking in the history classroom.
This was done by investigating the extent to which the elements of critical thinking and historical thinking
are cultivated in South African schools. The study also piloted a dialogical pedagogy which is in line with
the knowledge construction, cooperative and active learning advocated by critical theorists and social and
cultural constructivists. The purpose of the dialogical approach is to solve the poverty of critical thinking
and historical thinking in the classrooms. The thrust of this study is summed up in the main question
driving this study, namely: How do South African teachers respond when exposed to a teaching
pedagogy which incorporates an active process of knowledge construction that enhances historical
thinking and critical thinking?
The study was located within the framework of historical thinking as conceptual framework and lens that
guided this study. The study used the qualitative research paradigm and Action research design
recommended by critical theorists in order to systematically intervene to solve the problem of historical
thinking and critical thinking in the classroom. This dialogical approach has been recommended by
critical-thinking philosopher, Socrates, and the critical theorist Paulo Freire, as a method designed to
liberate learners in the classroom.
It was found in this study that the epistemological beliefs of teachers are mostly based on the outdated
scientific perspective of Ranke, and textbooks that are used do not provide suitable primary and
secondary sources for teachers to engage in the sourcing, corroboration and contextualization advocated
by Wineburg and Seixas. It was also found that some teachers are able to articulate aspects of historical
thinking such as empathy, multiple realities and the analysis of primary sources but they cannot reflect
these elements in the classroom. It was also established that most learners and teachers in this study
responded positively to the change in pedagogical strategy and became active participants in
argumentation and reasoning supported by evidence. The positive responses by learners are an
indication that South African schools have the potential to inculcate the central tenets of critical thinking
and historical thinking.