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Classroom uses for Depth Studies

Depth studies are not designed to replace traditional teacher input or textbook readings, or be off-the-shelf homework or class-work tasks. They do not have defined answers that can be marked according to an answer sheet. The studies are designed to make Cabinet papers (and other related sources) accessible, easy to integrate into an existing course and, in the process, provoke thought and discussion. They will undoubtedly broaden the range of material that students normally experience. The essence of the depth studies is the use of original source material. They challenge students to:

  • Extract information from sources
  • Consider the validity of views expressed in each source
  • Consider how those views sit with the other sources in the research project, with the students' own prior knowledge, and with the views of historians
  • Identify extracts from sources that can be used as evidence to support a concluding judgement

The nature of the sources

It is important to stress that the majority of sources come from one origin - the Cabinet papers. As you work through the depth studies you will find there are other types of source, notably cartoons and film extracts. There is therefore a danger that students may apply simplistic judgements about the nature of the sources if they do not engage closely with their content.

For example, it would be easy to make the assumption that because all Cabinet paper sources on 'Origins of the NHS' were from a Labour Cabinet, they would exhibit a one-sided perspective lauding the government's performance. This is to misunderstand the nature of the Cabinet papers. Although Cabinet papers generally do reveal Cabinet perspective, Cabinet discussions are held behind closed doors and ministers sometimes made statements that would not have been shared with the general public.

Cabinet meetings often provided the opportunity for ministers to discuss what their opponents were saying. A good example of this can be found in the research project on the 'Origins of the NHS'. In this research project the Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, summarises the main reasons his opponents in the British Medical Association oppose his plans. Sources from the Cabinet offer a larger series of viewpoints, insights and perspectives than you may at first think. 

Where do they fit into your teaching programme?

It is most likely that the depth studies will be used to complement other resources within some British depth study units. Most specifications examine these units through a source-based examination paper, so the actual process of the depth studies is also valuable. It may be worth considering this point when preparing to make use of the resources.

If your priority is to focus students' attention solely on the sources and how to use them in examination conditions, then the best preparation may be to teach the content of the relevant topic yourself and ask the students to tackle the research projects later. In this scenario they will probably have little need to use background information or other related resources.

If your priority is for students to work through a research project to see how the historian uses sources to build up and check a hypothesis, you may wish to send students to one of the depth studies with very little prior preparation. In this instance the Writing Frame could be a particularly useful tool.

Paper or electronic formats?

The resources have been written with onscreen use in mind because it is easy to move from one source to another. In this manner it is also easy to reference background information sections and other links. Cabinet paper sources are available as PDFs that can be printed and used just like any other handout.

In the classroom or out of school?

The depth studies can be used in either way. Like any other resource, their use needs to be planned in relation to the teaching programme and other resources being used. The most experienced teachers tend to use resources in a combination of ways. In a study that runs over several lessons, a class might be asked to work on one research project during lesson time, and study one or more sections in their own time as a homework assignment or as preparation for debate in the next lesson.

The research projects that make up each depth study can also be used as the basis of a practice examination paper. Substitute the main research project question for some questions that use a similar format to that used by your exam specification.

Individual or group work?

The depth studies are suited to individual, paired or group approaches. They are probably best suited to a collaborative approach, as these tend to generate the dialogue and discussion which helps most students to develop their own understanding of a topic. An obvious way of using depth studies is to allocate various research projects to different pairs (or groups), ask them to work on their particular area and present their findings to the rest of the group.

Alternatively, you could ask one group to report back on evidence relevant to one particular issue within a research project. It is also possible to ask particular pairs or groups to only look at one or two of the sources within a research project and see how this approach helps the whole class develop its views.

If students are presenting their views on the whole study or on particular sections, remember that all sources have corresponding text transcripts that can be copied into standard packages such as Word, PowerPoint and their equivalents. This is to be encouraged, as it requires students to select extracts that are most relevant to the issue they are studying.

Provisions for re-using source material in this site are as follows:

  • All cabinet records, precedent books and secretary's notebooks are available for re-use as PDF documents and can be downloaded free of charge
  • Image sources are subject to copyright and students need to obtain permissions for re-use with identified copyright holders
  • Video sources cannot be exported but can link to a student presentation using a hyperlink

The Writing Frame

The depth studies are made up of a series of smaller research projects. Research projects are designed to make students engage with the content of each individual source. Students should also consider what insights each source feeds into the main research project question, and decide how valid this insight actually is. They must then reach an overall judgement.

The Writing Frame is designed to break down the procedure of selecting, analysing and using sources for this purpose. In the process it is hoped that it will not only support students as they work, but will also increase their awareness of methodology.

It is also possible to simply use the research project question as a basis for discussion in class. Perhaps use it with notes on an interactive whiteboard, and then ask students to use the Writing Frame as a homework assignment (see related guides).