Historical Thinking Skills & Evaluation Strategies in Social Sciences

Historical thinking is a framework that allows students to explore the nature of history and historical events at a deeper level.  Students actively investigate their past, using various intellectual operations, through an examination of source documents, and through a process of representation, rigorous reasoning, and interpretation. 

Opportunities for formative and self-assessment abound. The Historical Thinking concepts and specific guideposts can help you note and then teach the more specific and deeper skills needed for final assessments.  Here you will find notions, tools and strategies to help you teach critical thinking and more effectively use the evaluation frameworks and the "Intellectual Operations".

Note:  Some of the actual Practice Evaluations produced by the RECITUS have been translated as well, and are available here below and on the main History of Quebec & Canada page here.

Intellectual Operations Icons, Summary Pages, Organizers

Intellectual Operations Icons by LEARN

Also, available are various "Summary Pages" and Related Graphic Organizers 

Below you will now find our icons, which were originally used for summary pages created by LEARN and LBPSB consultants, and which now include the latest versions specific to the History of Quebec and Canada program.  Older IO documents for courses being changed or discontinued may also be available.  

A note about these icons from Paul R @ LEARN! 
These icons have a story:  They were quickly created when I was putting together various LESs and document packages, and when I was teaching the course myself online.  The intention was to have identifiable iconography so that I could label activities easily and so students could readily see which operation they were performing.  I created poster-sized versions to put on my wall as well.  They quickly became very popular amongst teachers and students, and are now often used in the creation of materials by various boards and even on some exams!  However, please note that they are not official documents, but are reflections on the official documents available on the MEES sites and on their training documents. 

Summary documents of the frameworks and I.O.s
for various subjects within the Social Sciences:

Secondary History (HCE): Cycle 1 and 2  Download
Secondary Geography  Download
Contemporary World:  Download
Histoire et éducation à la citoyenneté (1 et 2)   Download
Géographie Download
Monde contemporain   Download 

Icon collections for the I.O.'s for older HCE:

Tabloid-sized for posters,  in English Download en français Download  

Secondary 3 and 4 History of Quebec program icons: 

Tabloid and small jpeg versions together Download
Card-sized versions for activities Go to site
Tabloid et petit jpgs en français Download


Visit our central store-house for various graphic organizers, many of which were developed for the myriad learning scenarios and document packages on LEARN.  For convenience, we have gathered them together, and to loosely organize them around various Historical Thinking concepts, their guideposts document, and our own program's Intellectual Operations.  Go to page  


Intellectual Operation (I.O.) Guides and Badges by RECITUS

Earning your Intellectual Operations Badges by RECITUS

Below are a series of badges for the I.O.s in history and geography that you can hand over to students as they practice the operations, and as they become proficient in using them in different situations. They were originally prepared by the RECITUS team.  Their French versions are now available via Go to site 
Notes about these guides and in particular the use of badges.  While they do allow the teacher or student to illustrate concretely an abstract intellectual operation, they are not instruments of evaluation. Rather, they might help students assess where they are in their appropriation of one or other of the intellectual operations. Finally, they could also be used as tools to inspire and motivate students,  in gaming strategies in class, a playful learning tool, or as just one teaching medium among many others. It is up to teachers to define an appropriate distribution system.  

Also note that the separate English badge images used in the guides are available here: Download

New for 2021:  Elementary-level badge guides with additional sample worksheets are now available on the Societies and Territories web site. Go to site  


Establish Facts
The student must identify an actor, a group, an action, a measure, a role, a territory, an economic activity, a phenomenon.

Download English secondary version of the guide, several worksheets, as Google Slides: Go to site  

Establish connections between facts
The student must associate demonstrations or descriptions with facts that are related to them.

Access current English version Go to site

Establish Causal Connections
The student must demonstrate the causal link between the specified elements.

Access current English version  Go to site

Determine causes & consequences
The student should indicate a fact, for example, the contexts, interests, objectives, influences, actions, which explains a historical reality. The student should indicate a fact that springs from a historical reality.

Access current English versions:  
Causes Go to site    Consequences Go to site


Situate in Time
The student must chronologically order facts taking into account time markers. It must situate a fact or set of facts on a timeline. It must classify facts according to whether they are earlier or later than a time marker.

Download English Google Doc secondary example  Go to site


Situate in Space
The student must situate geographical elements, facts or territories in space.
Guide to come.

Download English Google Doc example  Go to site


Identify differences & similarities
Students should identify differences and similarities or points of convergence or divergence.

Access current English versions:
Convergence & divergence Go to site 
Similarities & Differences Go to site

Determine changes & continuities
The student must identify a fact that shows that a historical reality is being transformed or maintained.

Access current English version: Changes and continuities Go to site


Intellection Operations: Main and Formative Sub-Skill Examples

Teaching Intellectual Operations and Historical Thinking

Could the I.O.s relate to real-life situations?

Here's one fun way to introduce the I.O.s, and then to constantly refer to them throughout the year.  View the LEARN How-to entitled Talk about your passion by using the Intellectual Operations!   Go to page

What about real-life examples of what it looks like to perform the Intellectual Operations?  Check out the RECITUS GUIDE SUR LES OPÉRATIONS INTELLECTUELLES (VIE QUOTIDIENNE) and our working English translation available now as a Google Slide here:  Go to page


Intellection Operations and formative supporting skills and notions

The Intellectual Operations are ways students "appropriately use knowledge" in the Social Sciences. But students may need to develop other supporting skills or notions too.  "Too often in education, we head students who have insufficient formative skills straight for the summative assessment. It is the formative skills that lead up to the summative skills, the ones being assessed." (Big Skills for the Common Core by Hugelmeyer &  Benjamin) 

Based upon the concepts in The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts (and especially the Guideposts) one can break down the I.O.'s and identify various skills and sub-skills a teacher could monitor and formatively assess. 

Explore the following examples of skills and sub-skills that help students "identify relevant and accurate facts" and establish and understanding their significance:
Main skills:
Identify accurate facts  Go to site    Identify and explain relevant facts  Go to site
Related sub-skills to practice:
Consider the question or problem  Go to site
Establish needs and clear goals Go to site
Consider prior understanding  Go to site
Contextualize document  Go to site
Primary vs secondary documents  Go to site


Explore the following examples of skills and sub-skills that help students "associate forms of expression or descriptions with facts that are related to them:
Main skills:
Ability to INTERRELATE FACTS  Go to site
Ability to ILLUSTRATE A STATEMENT using facts.  Go to site  
Related sub-skills to practice:
Describe the “historical narrative”
Gain and connect specific knowledge from documents


The following are examples of skills involved when students "place facts on timelines; establish precedence or posteriority, situate territories in time, etc."
Main skills in this I.O.:
Place Facts in CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER  Go to site 
Place Facts on a TIMELINE  Go to site 
Identify facts that PRECEDE or FOLLOW  Go to site 
Situate TERRITORIES IN TIME  Go to site
Situate TERRITORY in space/time Go to site

Historical Thinking / How to get students thinking deeper?
How can we turn a timeline activity into a historical thinking activity? One way is to consider historical significance.  Example strategy:   Arrange event cards in chronological order.  From a larger set of events, students select and place on a timeline 10 events that are the most historically significant, based on criteria such as "Revealing or Remarkable" (from The Big Six).  With this criterion in mind students then categorize their selection based on remarkable or revealing, and arrange event cards in chronological order.  Alternatively, students could use criteria based on relevance to a guiding question.  Finally, students themselves could use their conclusions to determine their own time periods or to identify what they feel are important turning points, compare theirs to the program's choices, etc.  (Tools like timelines here, here and here.  Browse larger collection here.  Timelines cards similar generate on Canadian Encyclopedia here, but created from collections like those on LEARN here!)



Explore the following examples of skills that help students identify facts that explain and/or result from phenomena: 
Main skill:
Possible sub-skills:
Delineate/characterize a TIME PERIOD  Go to site
Consider MOTIVATIONS  Go to site
Identify/explain CONDITIONS  Go to site
Determine consequence’s INFLUENCE  Go to site
Note consequence’s DURATION  Go to site


Explore the following examples of skills that help students establish logical connections between explanatory factors and consequences:
Main skill:
Possible sub-skills:
Mapping  MULTIPLE CAUSES  Go to site 
Identify TYPES (Economic, political, etc.)  Go to site 
Vocabulary for WAYS ...  Go to site


Explore the following examples of skills that help students identify what remains unchanged over time, or that changes over time.
Main skill:
Identify UNCHANGED & indicate CHANGED  Go to site 
Possible sub-skills:
Sequence the TARGETED EVENTS first  Go to site
PERIODIZE the events in question  Go to site
Discover/identify TURNING POINTS  Go to site
Describe the PROCESS of CHANGE  Go to site
INTERPRET changed and unchanged elements  Go to site 


Identify Differences and Similarities
Main and sub-skills .. coming soon.



See also the RECITUS Badge guides:
Students should identify differences and similarities or points of convergence or divergence.
English versions:
Convergence and divergence Go to site Similarities & Differences Go to site
Les guides originaux en français:  
Convergence et divergence Télécharger 
Similitudes et différences Télécharger
Réclamer cette mention (compte credly nécessaire).

HQC Evaluation Materials (RECITUS, SWLSB, ETC.)

RECITUS Questions and Evaluations in English 

Occasionally we translate RECITUS document collections, tasks and most recently some of their evaluations.   They are then stored on the Secondary 3/4 Communauté Histoire du Québec et du Canada. (Go to site)   Direct links to these resources are below.

Review with BANQ Short Answer Questions - Origins to 1840   Go to site
Review Slides (Synthesis for Origins to 1840)  Go to site 

Question developing of a coherent representation of a period C1 - Origins -1608  Go to site 
Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 -  Origins to 1608  Go to site

Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1608-1760 Go to site
Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1608 to1663  Go to site

Question developing a coherent representation of period C1 - 1763-1774   Go to siteQuestion demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 1760-1791  Go to site

Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1791-1840 Go to site 
Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1791-1840 Go to site 


Short-answer review questions - period 1840 to the present Go to site
Short Answer Questions -- 1945-1980  Go to site
Short questions - Period of 1980 to our times  Go to site

Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1840 to 1896   Go to site
Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1896 to 1945   Go to site
Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1945 to 1980   Go to site
Question developing a coherent representation of a period C1 - 1980 to today  Go to site

Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1840 to 1896    Go to site
Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1896 à 1945   Go to site
Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1945 to 1980   Go to site
Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation C2 - 1980 to today  Go to site

CSMV (Robillard & Quirion):    Duplessis- modernism ou conservatism ? C2 - Question demonstrating rigour of interpretation   Go to site


New on RECITUS is a new site where you can find evaluation grids that can be easily translated and adapted for your needs.

SWLSB database of exam questions

Recently shared on the community by Daniel Hedges, a consultant at SWLSB, is a large project whereby recycled and recently created MEES-style exam questions have been organized according to course time periods.  The links below lead directly to the questions posted to the Secondary 3/4 Communauté Histoire du Québec et du Canada. 

Secondary 3 
Question Database: Origins to 1608   
Question Database: 1608-1760 

Secondary 4 
Question Database: 1840-1896
Question Database: 1896-1945

Note:  These are links midway to sections in rather long documents.  Scan all the way to the bottom for extra exams and resources.  ;-)

Newly created Dec. 2019 - Quick links to questions!
With these quick links, you have access to Document Based Questions by topic. Since the topics are laid out for each time period, this resource works well for practicing Document Base Questions with students thoughout the year, on a ongoing basis, and as a routine. This helps students get better at Document Based Questions, and ultimately to be better prepared for the exam too!!  (D. Hedges)

Click to access the new SEC. 3 and SEC. 4 Quick Links document


The Evaluation Strategies and Tools page too

Scan through the main Social Sciences pages for organizers and embedded evaluations inside learning activities, and many other resources.  

As well, on the new Evaluation Strategies pages (you might already be here if you are reading this) are various other tools and strategies to help teachers use the evaluation frameworks, monitor skills particular to the social sciences, and develop some best practices for exam situations. Note, that is also where you will also find the LEARN I.O. icons and RECITUS Evaluations, Badges and Guides!  Go to page

LCEEQ workshop on Historical Thinking


LCEEQ Presentation on Historical Thinking (Matt R and Paul R)
Matt R. (WQSB) and I (Paul R from LEARN) presented on HIstorical Thinking concepts and strategies at LCEEQ this year.  We focussed on information in the various sections on this page below, and provided opportunities for participants to "think historically".

Key links we mentioned:
Main Historical Thinking Site on Historical  And to order the book The Big Six
The Historical Thinking concepts and specifically their guideposts document 

Our Google Slide document
Our Powerpoint temporarily available here
Student Sample Docs we analysed are available by request.
Historical Event cards created with screenshots from Canadian Encyclopedia timelines

Graphic Organizers:  
Timelining Events
 (Remarkable and Reveal)  Single page and Huge Electronic versions for online collaboration are available below and in main-page Graphic Organizers section for Situate in Time and Space (Long version contains link to event cards)
Consequences Placemat for Degree of Influence (and similar for Relevance).  Available below and in main-page Graphic Organizers section for Cause and Consequence

Historical Collection and Consequence Cards: Historical Collection #26 on American Revolution consequences.  Including consequence cards to print (Note:  Many other doc. collections via History of Quebec & Canada and the Communauté)

A few video suggestions:
What is Historical Thinking:  for Historical Thinking skills, especially Evidence and Perspectives by @teachinghistory … Many of our "Intellectual Operations" involved. Good (U.S. History) examples

The Importance of studying History:   Historical Thinking Concepts overview and notion of a Growth Mindset, looking in the future.

MEQ (Previously MEES) Program Documents - Secondary

Below you will find various Ministry of Education program and evaluation documents for the Secondary Social Sciences domain.  (Contact Paul R. if you find broken links!)

Quebec Secondary Programs in Social Sciences
The QEP program documents describe course aims, competencies to develop, and course content.

Cycle 1 History and Citizenship Education  Download

Cycle 1 Geography Program Go to site    Download

Cycle 2 History of Quebec and Canada Sec. 3 & 4 program Download

Cycle 2 History of the 20th Century    Download

Cycle 2 Cultural Geography Download

Cycle 2 Financial Education Program Download

Cycle 2 Contemporary World  Go to site   (Or view PDFs for Four credits  Two credits

Note that the Ministry (MEES) Programs of Study page, where you will find these "General Education" Secondary School Programs and older programs too, is now online here:  Go to site  


Progression/Precision of Learning documents

Cycle 1 History & Citizenship   Go to site

Cycle 1 Geography  Go to site 

Cycle 2 Contemporary world  Go to site   (Or view PDF's for Four credits or Two credits)

History of Quebec & Canada.   (See instead "knowledge" within the program Download)

Evaluation Frameworks

Below are links to the individual evaluation frameworks.  You can also visit the main MEES site and browse by subject to review them  Go to site

Cycle 1 and 2 - History & Citizenship Education  Download

Cycle 2 (New) History of Québec and Canada program  Download

(Older) History & Citizenship Education framework  Download

Cycle 1 Geography framework  Go to site   (Or Download

Contemporary World online version Go to site   (Or Download

Financial Education  Go to site   (Or Download


BAMD:  MEES approved books site
Bureau d'approbation du matériel didactique

Go to site


MEES sample "Document files" from training sessions

1608 and 1760 - Document File: Cities in Canada

1840-1896 - Document File: Socio-cultural expression  

1896 to 1945 - Document File: Education and technical training

1896-present - Document File: Challenging capitalism

1945-present - Document file: Language issue

1980-present - Document File: Information Era

Origins to present - Document File: Inuit nation  


MEES "Trial models" from training sessions

Migrations in Québec (Trial Model)

The National Policy and Canada’s Economic Autonomy (Trial Model)

Forms of Nationalism in Canada (Trial Model)

The Quiet Revolution: Disruption or Continuity? (Trial model)

Devitalization of Québec’s Rural Communities (Trial Model)

Women’s Right to Vote (Trial Model)

Indian Residential Schools in Québec (Trial Model)


Contacts in Social Sciences

Paul Rombough
Me... Paul Rombough
My main dossiers at LEARN include:

Social Sciences
Ethics and Religious Culture
Physical Education and Health
Education for Reconciliation
Sexuality Education


Some Twitter folks worth following

Paul Rombough LEARN @paulrombo
Matt Russell WQSB @historyrussell
Craig Bullett RECIT  @RECIT4ESSB 
Dan Hedges SWLSB @dhedgegrove
Joan Zachariou LBPSB @SSLBPSB
Kesi Walters CQSB @KesiWalters

Steve Quirion RÉCITUS @recitus
Maude Labonté RÉCITUS @MaudeLab