27 SES 01 C, Values and Norms in School Subjects
In line with recent constructivist theories of learning, research on history education stresses that the core of history learning should involve what Seixas (1999) has coined as ‘doing the discipline (p. 328)’: students learn about the study of history by critically examining primary and secondary accounts of the past, and construct their own historical accounts. A multitude of terms is used to refer to this approach, such as historical reasoning, historical thinking, and historical inquiry (for an overview, see Van Drie & Van Boxtel, 2008). In the context of this study, we chose to adopt the term historical inquiry, as it refers to history students’ inquiry activities in general, whereas the others mainly refer to the cognitive processes taking place during these activities. Previous studies have shown that historical inquiry can increase students’ understanding of disciplinary methods and standards (Monte-Sano, 2011), as well as their understanding of the content matter (Wiley & Voss, 1996). This approach is often viewed as a move towards student-centered learning, away from a traditional approach that is dominated by teacher talk (Van Drie & Van Boxtel, 2008). Some research has suggested a contrast between history teaching in the U.S. and in Europe (UK), with the latter being more aimed towards teaching disciplinary knowledge. Yet, little is known about how teachers implement historical inquiry in their classrooms, and why they do so in that way.
A large body of research has demonstrated that teachers’ classroom practices are strongly intertwined with their subject-specific beliefs (Fang, 1996). Kagan (1992) defines these beliefs as an “orientation to a specific academic content, including the teacher’s epistemological conceptions of the field to be taught, as well as his or her judgments about appropriate instructional activities, goals, forms of evaluation, and the nature of student learning”. Past research has mainly focused on history teachers’ epistemological beliefs, or their conceptions about historical knowledge and its acquisition (e.g. Wilson & Wineburg, 1993; Yilmaz, 2010). According to recent work by Maggioni, VanSledright and Reddy (2009), history teachers can adopt three epistemological stances: (1) objectivism, a belief that history describes the past as it was and therefore does not need special criteria to handle evidence; (2) subjectivism, a conviction that history is ultimately a personal view of historians, and that there is no way to determine the truth; and (3) criterialism, an understanding that historical knowledge is based on evidence, and developed through the use of criteria and arguments.
Research on history teachers’ beliefs about instructional activities is more scarce, but has shown some alarming results. Virta (2002) reported that most student teachers did not consider student-centered learning as a viable approach for teaching history, and mainly named personality traits like charisma and expertise as key to being a good teacher. McDiarmid (1994) suggested that this belief is strongly rooted in student teachers’ own educational career, and reported that this belief did not change even after students had taken a historiography course and developed a more nuanced understanding of the discipline. Similarly, a case study by Hartzler-Miller (2001) described how a history teacher, despite being familiar with recent disciplinary developments, still chose to convey a broad narrative to his students instead of letting them conduct an inquiry.
These findings suggest that a clear distinction can be made between beliefs about the discipline of history and beliefs about history education, which may exist relatively separately in the heads of teachers. The present study aims to examine the nature of these two beliefs sets that seemingly guide history teachers’ practice, their relation to one another, and the way in which they influence the integration of historical inquiry.
Fang, Z. (1996). A review of research on teacher beliefs and practices. Educational Research, 38(1), 47–65. Hartzler-Miller, C. (2001). Making sense of “best practice” in teaching history. Theory & Research in Social Education, 29(4), 672–695. Kagan, D. M. (1992). Implications of research on teacher belief. Educational Psychologist, 27(1), 65–90. Leinhardt, G., Stainton, C., & Virji, S. (1994). A sense of history. Educational Psychologist, 29(2), 79–88. Maggioni, L., VanSledright, B., & Reddy, K. (2009, August). Epistemic talk in history. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the European Association of Research on Learning and Instruction, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. McDiarmid, G. W. (1994). Understanding history for teaching: A study of the historical understanding of prospective teachers. In M. Carretero & J. F. Voss (Eds.), Cognitive and instructional processes in history and the social sciences (pp. 159–185). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded source book. Huberman, (2nd ed.). London: Sage. Monte-Sano, C. (2011). Beyond reading comprehension and summary: Learning to read and write in history by focussing on evidence, perspective and interpretation. Curriculum Inquiry, 41(2), 212–249. Seixas, P. (1999). Beyond “content” and “pedagogy”: In search of a way to talk about history education. Higher Education, 31(3), 317–337. Van Drie, J., & Van Boxtel, C. (2008). Historical reasoning: Towards a framework for analyzing students’ reasoning about the past. Educational Psychology Review, 20(2), 87–110. Virta, A. (2002). Becoming a history teacher: observations on the beliefs and growth of student teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(6), 687–698. Wiley, J., & Voss, J. F. (1996). The effects of “playing historian” on learning in history. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10(7), 63–72. Wilson, S. M., & Wineburg, S. S. (1993). Wrinkles in time and place: Using performance assessments to understand the knowledge of history teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 729–769. Yilmaz, K. (2010). Social studies teachers ’ conceptions of history: Calling on historiography. Journal of Educational Research, 101(3), 37–41.
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