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Progressive ideas and movements Defining Moments, 1750–1918

Art Gallery of Ballarat

1. Overview of the learning module


This learning module provides resources and classroom activities for teachers to use in their Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences Year 9 classrooms.

It supports the History knowledge and understanding strand for Depth Study 1, Making a better world? Progressive ideas and movements (1750–1918).

The learning module focuses on the four key inquiry questions for a number of key ideas:

  • What key ideas emerged?
  • Why did they develop and spread?

  • Why were they popular?

  • What impacts did they have?

The ideas included are:

  • capitalism

  • socialism

  • egalitarianism

  • nationalism

  • Chartism

The learning module is self-contained, and can be used in any of the following ways:

  • as whole class activities with all students studying a number of Defining Moments in Australian History that help them understand aspects of Australia’s history
  • distributed between small groups, with students reporting back on their findings to the whole class
  • as selected enrichment activities for individual students.

The investigations provide a rich digital resource for classroom use. They include contextual information, documents, images, scaffolded comprehension, analytical and extension questions, and individual, group and class activities. Using these materials and activities, students can explore aspects of twentieth century Australian history through text, images and objects.

The learning module has been designed to draw on the National Museum of Australia’s Defining Moments in Australian History, together with some supplementary resources.

What constitutes a defining moment in Australian history, and why some issues and situations can be considered more significant than others, is an underlying theme that can be raised with students throughout the module.

Module snapshot

The learning module can be used to create a set of preliminary ideas, understandings and questions that will help students investigate the topic in more detail.

It contains:

  • Setting the scene
    Introduce students to the requirements of the Depth Study, and have them focus on the set of Key Investigative Questions that provide a framework for their own study of the chosen progressive idea or movement.
  • Investigations
    Investigations 1.1–1.3: Capitalism
    Investigations 2.1–2.5: Socialism
    Investigations 3.1–3.5: Egalitarianism
    Investigations 4.1–4.4: Nationalism
    Investigations 5.1–5.5: Chartism

    Organise the class into five groups. Each group of students works through one of the sets of Defining Moments associated with the above five key ideas.

    They answer the comprehension and analysis questions associated with that key idea and share their research and analysis with the class. They will then be able to see which aspects of their investigation need further development.

  • Bringing it together
    This activity asks students to reflect on what they have learned about key ideas and movements in nineteenth century Australia.
  • Some additional approaches
    In some cases the same Defining Moment is repeated for different ideas. Students may or may not therefore be looking at a Defining Moment more than once. Where there is repetition, teachers might use alternative approaches. Here is one example using Chartism:
    • Students create their own series of quiz questions and answers explaining how the Eureka Stockade is a good example of Chartism.
    • Students choose a side (position) in a Chartism Debate focusing on the Eureka Stockade, where they have to formulate the arguments for or against the leaders of the miners.
    • Students draw, label and title an original political cartoon for The Bulletin depicting the Eureka Stockade, complete with subtle clues and caption, demonstrating both their understandings of the event, and Chartism.


2. Student activities

3. Relevant Defining Moments in Australian History

4. Australian Curriculum level and focus

Historical knowledge and understanding 

Students will cover the following areas: 

  • The emergence and nature of key ideas in the period, with a particular focus on ONE of the following: capitalism, socialism, egalitarianism, nationalism, imperialism, Darwinism, Chartism (ACDSEH019) 

  • Reasons why ONE key idea emerged and/or developed a following (ACDSEH086) 

  • The role of an individual or group in the promotion of ONE of these key ideas, and the responses to it, for example from workers, entrepreneurs, land owners, religious groups (ACDSEH087)  

  • The short and long-term impacts of ONE of these ideas on Australia and the world (ACDSEH088) 

Historical skills

Students will exercise the following historical skills:

Chronology, terms and concepts

  • Use chronological sequencing to demonstrate the relationship between events and developments in different periods and places (ACHHS182)

  • Use historical terms and concepts (ACHHS183)

Historical questions and research

  • Identify and select different kinds of questions about the past to inform historical inquiry (ACHHS184)

  • Evaluate and enhance these questions (ACHHS185)

  • Identify and locate relevant sources, using ICT and other methods (ACHHS186)

Analysis and use of sources

  • Identify the origin, purpose and context of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS187)

  • Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument (ACHHS188)

  • Evaluate the reliability and usefulness of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS189)

Perspectives and interpretations

  • Identify and analyse the perspectives of people from the past (ACHHS190)
  • Identify and analyse different historical interpretations (including their own) (ACHHS191)

Explanation and communication

  • Develop texts, particularly descriptions and discussions that use evidence from a range of sources that are referenced (ACHHS192)
  • Select and use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS193)

Interdisciplinary thinking

Students will have engaged with the concepts of:

  • significance
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect
  • place and space
  • interconnections
  • roles, rights and responsibilities
  • perspectives and action.

Cross-curriculum priorities

Students will be involved in additional learning about aspects of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies

  • Asia and the Pacific

  • sustainability.

Source: The Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences, v8.3, December 2016, viewed 1 November 2018


5. History outcomes matrix

All case studies in the learning module have been designed to help students develop the knowledge and skills outcomes specified in the Australian Curriculum History. At the end of each case study teachers could use this matrix to help guide student discussion about what they have achieved from the case study. The matrix is suitable to be used from Years 5–10, but with teachers guiding the discussion as appropriate to the particular class. It could also be used for assessment purposes.

Outcome Elaboration or explanation Applying this to each case study
KNOWLEDGE Comprehending what happened factually. What happened?
UNDERSTANDING Being able to explain what happened and why. Explain why it happened.
CHRONOLOGY Knowing how events occurred in time and place. Explain how events unfolded.
CAUSE AND EFFECT Understanding why events occurred as they did and the impacts or effects they had. Explain the causes of the event and its impacts.
EMPATHY Looking at events from the different perspective of participants. Why do you think people at the time might have behaved in this way?
CHANGE AND CONTINUITY What changed and what remained the same after the event. Explain how the event changed some aspects, but not others.
VOICE OR AGENCY Understanding whose voice or perspective is included and excluded in the record of the event. Which people or groups involved in, or affected by, the event have been represented? Which groups have not yet been represented?
JUDGEMENT Deciding on the benefit or harm created by the event. Explain why you think the event was beneficial or harmful, or both.
SIGNIFICANCE Explaining why it might be considered a ‘Defining Moment’ in Australian history. Do you think it was a significant and impactful event? Explain why you do or do not think this event is significant to Australian history.

6. History source analysis guide

Some of the case studies involve students using historical skills to evaluate primary sources of evidence. This process involves identifying ‘bias’ but also many other features of the evidence. Students can use a source analysis guide to help them interrogate sources.

Aspects Elaborations Document Image Artefact
DESCRIPTION How would you describe or classify it? What type of evidence is it? e.g. an official government report, a diary entry, transcript of an interview recorded 40 years after the event e.g. a photograph from the time, a propaganda poster, a satirical cartoon e.g. a made object
ORIGIN Who created it? When? Where? e.g. an eyewitness account from a participant on one side, a family story handed down for generations, a newspaper report that quotes several participants e.g. an eyewitness, a government body, a newspaper cartoonist e.g. created at the time, used at the time, technique used, materials used, made by all
CONTEXT What were the conditions at the time? How could they have influenced its creation? e.g. created during a period of crisis, created years later after the events had finished e.g. created during a period of crisis, created years later after the events had finished e.g. typical of the time or an innovation, specialised or mass production
AUDIENCE Who was it created for? How widespread would it have been? e.g. a political party, a mass protest, an official inquiry, a personal record e.g. a political party, a mass protest, an official inquiry, a personal record, a readership e.g. elite people or ordinary people
PURPOSE Why was it created? What is its style or tone? e.g. as an official record, to influence people to join a political party, to criticise somebody e.g. to entertain, to persuade or influence, to criticise, to reveal information, to record facts e.g. everyday use or specialised use, domestic use or trade
RELEVANCE What does it help you know and understand about what you are investigating? e.g. people involved, places, times, attitudes, values of the time, supporters and opponents e.g. people involved, places, times, attitudes, values of the time, supporters and opponents e.g. work, leisure, education, attitudes, values, everyday life, food
RELIABILITY What is its authority, accuracy and believability? e.g. factual accuracy, person in a position to know, first-hand or second-hand e.g. factual accuracy, person in a position to know, first-hand or second-hand e.g. typical or unusual, how closely associated with the events

7. Learning at the National Museum of Australia

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