Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries |Leeds Discovery Centre.


Enquiry Based Learning for Exploring Postcolonial Theory

The key teaching methodology for working with sensitive histories involves enquiry based learning - asking and answering open, challenging questions led by what the children want to know. When we support pupils to ask challenging questions in a safe environment, we help them to learn and can help build a more equitable society. Questions to ask at every stage:

  • Who is telling me this and why?
  • What are the other perspectives?
  • Is there evidence for alternative histories, and if not, why not?
  • Are we bringing our own bias to the evidence?

For this example, we are going to explore the history of Sir Martin Frobisher. It is written as an account of his life, with a series of questions designed to interrogate the standard historical narrative. We will focus on the missing voices of history and how one man’s perspective of other places and ‘other’ people can shape a dominant historical view.

Depending of the age of your pupils, their needs and sensitivities, or the topic you are working with, you may choose to lead some of the questions to start with, or provide them with different aspects of information and give them the freedom the ask the questions.  


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History: a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
  • KS2 Citizenship: Developing good relationships and respecting the differences between people
  • KS2 PSHE: Living in the Wider World


Discussion Ideas

In addition to the ideas below, there are questions scattered througout the story chapters aimed at promoting discussion.

  • Is this account a reliable narrative? We aim for trusted, evidenced, reliable information on, but are we reliable narrators telling the histories? We are shaped by our lived experiences too, and that also makes us subjective.
  • Use the historical discussion around the voyages of Sir Martin Frobisher to discuss contemporary issues around modern slavery and human trafficking. Where, when and why does this still happen? What can we do to change our society now? How can we make society better for everyone?
  • Discuss human rights and the UN Rights of the Child, especially the right to live safely. Make it local by using Leeds as a Child Friendly City as a starting point (see Supporting Links in Resources). Talk about how alongside rights, come responsibilities. How do pupils see their rights manifested in everyday life? What about their responsibilities?


Activity Ideas

  • For each event in Martin’s life, list the people whose voices we hear through the account history and then list those who are mentioned, but whose voices we don’t hear and don’t have evidence from in the main historical narrative. Use the images to visually show who we hear and who we don’t.
  • Create a narrative map. Give a small group a section of the text as ask them to write the questions they want to know the answers to. Answer them evidentially with different people’s perspectives, and fictionally. How many of the answers are evidenced, and whose perspective is that from, and how much is guesswork?
  • What is the other person thinking? Use storyboarding, a cartoon strip or write a story, to present the narrative from different perspectives. What did the Inuit think and feel when Martin and his crew turned up? What does Isobel think of her husband and his actions? This is good for comparing of different cultural or historical ideas, as well as personal perspectives.
  • Use the Leeds Curriculum local democracy resource activities to talk about human rights and responsibilities (see Democracy and Child Friendly Leeds story).