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A competence-based test to assess historical thinking in secondary education: Design, application, and validation



Jesús Domínguez-Castillo [1], Laura Arias-Ferrer [2], Raquel Sánchez-Ibáñez [2], Alejandro Egea-Vivancos [2], Francisco Javier García-Crespo [3], and Pedro Miralles-Martínez [2] 


[1] Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Spain

[2] Universidad de Murcia, Spain

[3] Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain


This paper presents the theoretical framework, application and final outcomes of a pilot test designed as a possible model for assessing students' historical thinking in Secondary Education. It is based both on widely accepted historical thinking concepts and on the assessment framework developed by PISA. The test tries to assess what could be named as the three major competences in history: "explain historically", "use of sources as historical evidence" and "understanding the features of historical knowledge". It includes several stimuli (texts, images…) and a total of 39 items. The field trial of the test was applied to a convenience sample of 893 10th and 11th grade students, aged 16 to 18 years. Their answers were analysed statistically according to the Item Response Theory (IRT), and the results uphold the validity and reliability of the test instrument. The IRT analysis also enables us to take a first step towards defining levels of achievement and progress for the learning and acquisition of those competences. One implication of note of this research is the possible adoption of this model for assessing history, based both on applied content knowledge and historical thinking concepts and skills. Such a model of assessment would also stimulate more active, problem-based and motivating teaching approaches.


Competencies, Historical thinking, Assessment, Pilot study, Item Response Theory (IRT), Educational research

How to Cite:

Domínguez-Castillo, J., Arias-Ferrer, L., Sánchez-Ibáñez, R., Egea-Vivancos, A., García-Crespo, F. J., & Miralles-Martínez, P. (2021). A competence-based test to assess historical thinking in secondary education: Design, application, and validation. Historical Encounters, 8(1), 30-45.


  • Published 24 May 2021

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License

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