Structure of Modern History

Structure of Modern History


In Modern History, students study the forces that have shaped the modern world and develop a broader and deeper comprehension of the world in which they live. The Modern History curriculum consists of four units. For each unit there are five to eight topic electives that focus on a particular nation-state, movement or development. Each unit includes a focus on key concepts that underpin the discipline of history, such as cause and effect, significance, and contestability.

The four units include:

Unit 1: Understanding the Modern World

This unit provides an introduction to significant developments in the modern period that have defined the modern world, and the ideas that underpinned them such as liberty, equality and fraternity.

Unit 2: Movements for Change in the 20th century

This unit examines significant movements, developed in response to the ideas studied in Unit 1 that brought about change in the modern world and that have been subject to political debate. The unit focuses on the ways in which individuals, groups and institutions have challenged authority and transform society.

Unit 3: Modern Nations in the 20th century

This unit examines the ‘nation’ as the principal form of political organisation in the modern world; the crises that confronted nations in the 20th century; their responses to these crises, and the different paths they have taken to fulfil their goals.

Unit 4: The Modern World since 1945

This unit focuses on the distinctive features of the modern world that emerged in the period 1945-2010. It aims to build students’ understanding of the contemporary world - that is, why we are here at this point in time.

Modern History: Concepts and topics across units (PDF)

Organisation of content

The Modern History curriculum continues to develop student learning in history through the two strands of historical knowledge and understanding, and historical skills. This strand organisation provides an opportunity to integrate content in flexible and meaningful ways.

Historical knowledge and understanding

The strand of historical knowledge and understanding focuses on knowing about and understanding key events, ideas, movements, developments and people that have shaped the modern world. Historical understanding is developed through concepts that define history as a discipline, including evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, significance, empathy, perspectives and contestability.

Historical skills

This strand presents historical skills includes skills that are used in historical inquiry. There are five key skill areas that build on those learned in the Foundation to Year 10 curriculum and which continue to be developed in the Modern History curriculum. These include chronology, terms and concepts; historical questions and research; analysis and use of sources; perspectives and interpretations; and explanation and communication. There is an emphasis through this strand on the development of informed and defensible responses to inquiry questions through a critical use of sources.

Relationship between the strands

The two strands are interrelated and the content has been written to enable integration of the strands in the development of a teaching and learning program. The historical knowledge and understanding strand provides the contexts through which particular skills are to be developed. The same set of historical skills has been included in each of the four units to provide a common focus for the teaching and learning of content in the historical knowledge and understanding strand.

Organisation of achievement standards

The Modern History achievement standards are organised as two dimensions: knowledge and understanding, and historical skills, and describe five levels of student achievement. These follow the organisation of the content to provide a clear alignment that may be helpful to teachers of Modern History.

Senior secondary achievement standards have been written for each Australian Curriculum senior secondary subject. The achievement standards provide an indication of typical performance at five different levels (corresponding to grades A to E) following the completion of study of senior secondary Australian Curriculum content for a pair of units. They are broad statements of understanding and skills that are best read and understood in conjunction with the relevant unit content. They are structured to reflect key dimensions of the content of the relevant learning area. They will be eventually accompanied by illustrative and annotated samples of student work/ performance/ responses.

The achievement standards will be refined empirically through an analysis of samples of student work and responses to assessment tasks: they cannot be maintained a priori without reference to actual student performance. Inferences can be drawn about the quality of student learning on the basis of observable differences in the extent, complexity, sophistication and generality of the understanding and skills typically demonstrated by students in response to well-designed assessment activities and tasks.

In the short term, achievement standards will inform assessment processes used by curriculum, assessment and certifying authorities for course offerings based on senior secondary Australian Curriculum content.

ACARA has made reference to a common syntax (as a guide, not a rule) in constructing the achievement standards across the learning areas. The common syntax that has guided development is as follows:

  • Given a specified context (as described in the curriculum content)
  • With a defined level of consistency/accuracy (the assumption that each level describes what the student does well, competently, independently, consistently)
  • Students perform a specified action (described through a verb)
  • In relation to what is valued in the curriculum (specified as the object or subject)
  • With a defined degree of sophistication, difficulty, complexity (described as an indication of quality)

Terms such as ‘analyse’ and ‘describe’ have been used to specify particular action but these can have everyday meanings that are quite general. ACARA has therefore associated these terms with specific meanings that are defined in the senior secondary achievement standards glossary and used precisely and consistently across subject areas.