Schools may have changed in the past century, but we can recognize many ingredients that have endured.

La plus ça change, la plus c’est la même chose. Schools may have changed in the past century, but we can recognize many ingredients that have endured. Library and Archives Canada / A-028095

Continuity and Change

Students sometimes misunderstand history as a list of events. Once they start to understand history as a complex mix of continuity and change, they reach a fundamentally different sense of the past.

There were lots of things going on at any one time in the past. Some changed rapidly while others remained relatively continuous. The decade of the 1910s in Canada, for instance, saw profound change in many aspects of life, but not much change in its forms of government. If students say, “nothing happened in 1911” they are thinking of the past as a list of events.

One of the keys to continuity and change is looking for change where common sense suggests that there has been none and looking for continuities where we assumed that there was change. Judgments of continuity and change can be made on the basis of comparisons between some point in the past and the present, or between two points in the past, such as before and after Confederation in Canada. We evaluate change over time using the ideas of progress and decline.

What is a Benchmark?

<p>John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising &amp; Marketing History,<br />Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections</p>

A surveyor cut a "benchmark" into a stone or a wall when measuring the altitude and/or level of a tract of land. A bracket called a "bench" was secured in the cut to mount the surveying equipment, and all subsequent measurements were made in reference to the position and height of that mark.

The term "benchmark" was first used around 1842 to refer to a standard of quality by which achievement may be measured.

The foundation documents available through the Benchmarks site attempt to help teachers establish standards for assessing student learning of the modes of thought that constitute historical thinking.

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History,
Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections