Comparative understanding of school subjects: Past, present, and future

Reed Stevens*, Sam Wineburg, Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, Philip Bell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Research has elevated the proposition of knowledge's domain specificity from a working hypothesis to a de facto truth. The assumption of domain specificity structures handbooks, organizes branches of funding agencies, and provides headings for conference proceedings. Leading researchers often focus on a single slice of the school day despite the possibility that such segments swirl into a blur for children. The authors examine the domain-specific landscape, beginning with the recent past, when domain generality, not domain specificity, reigned supreme. They then examine the transition to domain-specific approaches. Next, they offer an alternative to both positions, a stance they call the comparative understanding of school subjects. A comparative understanding trains attention on how the same children understand multiple subjects in the curriculum. The authors argue that this approach represents a promising path for conceptualizing research on children, schooling, and thinking by raising new questions about children's understandings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-157
Number of pages33
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Cognition
  • Curriculum
  • Schooling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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