Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Analysing documents and interpreting textbooks: Students' historical thinking skills in learning about the battle of Surabaya

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posted on 2021-04-23, 02:24 authored by Aditya Widiadi

This thesis examines how secondary students in Indonesia develop historical thinking skills through analysing documents and interpreting textbooks on a key historical event in Indonesia’s independence: the battle of Surabaya. Developing historical thinking skills poses a particular challenge in an Indonesian setting. Although history education has been largely aimed at fostering a spirit of nationalism and patriotism among younger people, the recent history curriculum (2013) requires teachers to foster historical thinking skills with their students. This poses a significant challenge for teachers who typically rely on lectures and textbooks with an official government perspective. Even those teachers who are motivated, have difficulties in accessing primary sources needed to stimulate students’ historical thinking.

There is a gap in the literature on historical thinking in Indonesia, and this research project contributes to how these challenges can be addressed. To examine how learning history through analysing documents and interpreting textbooks contribute to students’ historical thinking skills, this study was informed by the theoretical perspectives of critical pedagogy, cognitivism, threshold concepts, and connectivism. To collect and analyse the data, this study used a mixed methods intervention design. Participants in this study involved three history teachers from three different schools and 11th grade students (n = 191, age 16-19) that were divided into control and experimental groups. By using six data collection instruments, both quantitative and qualitative, this study conducted two phases of learning interventions.

Findings of this study show that analysing documents and interpreting textbooks (ADIT learning model) contributes to the development of students’ historical thinking skills. This was demonstrated by the experimental group who progressed better than those of the control group. However, both groups of students were challenged, especially when dealing with multiple sources and establishing their interpretative position. The findings of this study also show that the advancement of students’ historical thinking skills was closely related to students’ complex epistemic beliefs about history. Learning through analysing documents and interpreting textbooks, as well as using web-based historical sources, has proven to foster students’ historical thinking skills.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

930104 Moral and Social Development (incl. Affect)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Sheehan, Mark; Shep, Sydney