The AST History evaluates students’ ability in the following four areas— basic knowledge of history, reading historical texts, interpretation of historical events, and analysis of historical information and evidence. Questions are designed to encompass all four areas rather than testing these skills individually. Under each area, students will also be tested on their ability to memorize, read, analyze and deduce historical facts.
1. Basic Knowledge
The past can serve as a barometer for how we see things today. History is a subject that focuses on exploring the past. The knowledge that historians have accumulated over the years serves as a foundation for learning history.
Fundamental to the study of history is learning about important eras and periods in the history of Taiwan, China, and the world, and understanding how these have changed in the course of history. Also, it is important for students to understand the political, social, economic, and cultural trends in different eras as well as their causes and effects.
- 1-1 To understand the big picture of an era through its political, social, economic, and cultural features
- 1-2 To understand political, social, economic, and cultural trends and changes in history
- 1-3 To understand the causes and effects of certain historical events or phenomena.
2. Reading Historical Texts
Historical literacy is mainly acquired through reading historical texts, which should be a focus of high school history education. Reading historical texts is a dynamic process which involves both reading and analysis. Students also have to use their imagination and apply what they have learned to gain insights from the texts about the historical events documented. In order to understand the meaning of historical texts, students also have to learn to differentiate various types and styles of historical texts (including ways of reasoning and writing styles). Reading a historical text, or reading a text in a historical context (as opposed to reading it to learn the language), means to read it against a certain historical background in order to interpret its meaning.
There are many types of historical text; a high school history textbook is only one of them. Reading textbooks can provide students with a foundation to build more advanced skills. The goal of reading textbooks is not to limit the scope of history learning, but to allow students to accumulate ample amounts of background information and help them build up a habit of reading historical texts. With some basic knowledge and a solid reading habit, students will be able to advance their historical horizon through the skills they’ve acquired from the textbooks. Therefore, the goal of the AST History is to assess not only knowledge but also skills that students have acquired from the textbooks, examining how well they can apply the reading skills they’ve learned when reading and appreciating diverse historical texts. Students may be asked to read rudimentary but important works by historians or historical texts including pictures, and extract the meanings behind these works.
- 2-1 To understand the content and meaning of historical texts
- 2-2 To analyze the form and arguments in historical texts
- 2-3 To understand the significance of historical texts against the historical backdrop
3. Interpreting Historical Events
An important aspect of exploring the field of history is to interpret historical events, phenomena, figures, and development. Therefore, an important part of history learning is to understand a historical text’s interpretation, whether implicit or explicit, of a historical event and how the interpretation was formed.
Also, historians often offer different interpretations of a single historical event due to factors such as different historical backgrounds, evidence used, or personal preferences. This is the norm and feature of history, and diversity is also what drives the study to improve. So learning to compare and contrast different interpretations is an important skill to acquire in high school history courses.
- 3-1 To understand historical facts and different interpretations of historical events
- 3-2 To compare and contrast two or more historical interpretations and the information and evidence behind them
- 3-3 To differentiate various historical interpretations in terms of historical backgrounds, evidence used, and historians’ personal preferences
4. Analyzing Historical Information and Evidence
History is a study that looks at the past and rebuilds it. Although exploring history requires some imagination, a solid foundation on gathering and interpreting information is instrumental. In other words, we learn about the past through relics and historical materials our predecessors left. Information or materials available to historians have become increasingly diverse over the years. For example, historical texts, pictures, artifacts, and sound and video files can all help us learn about history. Therefore, it is important to learn to differentiate various forms and features of historical information, and explore their connection with the historical events documented.
On the other hand, not all information is “useful” “historical information” for history study. Historians assign value and meanings to historical information; a piece of information only becomes meaningful historical evidence when it answers questions raised by the historian. Therefore, the ability to tell if certain information is valuable to historical study is also very important. Therefore, high school students need to understand the relation between an argument and the historical information it draws on; they also need to analyze and apply information at hand in order to formulate sensible answers to questions.
- 4-1 To understand the form, quality, features and limitations of historical information
- 4-2 To understand the connection between historical information and its interpretation
- 4-3 To propose sensible arguments according to the questions raised and the information given