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Teaching and Learning Historical Explanation: Teacher and Student Cases from Lower and Upper Secondary History
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Centre for the Studies of Social Sciences Didactics (from 2013). Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3103-9229
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate and analyse how teachers and students understand the concept of historical explanation in the context of classroom teaching practices. The thesis is made up of four studies that investigate different aspects of understanding, focusing on either teacher or student understanding as expressed in words and actions.

 

The different studies employ differing methods, including classroom observations, interviews with teachers, and analysis of student answers to prompts intended for assessment. The studies include cases from both lower and upper secondary school in Sweden. The four studies provide empirical results that are presented in each individual study, and furthermore subjected to an aggregated analysis in order to find patterns of commonality. The aggregated analysis draws upon Rüsen's theory of historical knowledge, as well as a progression model for historical explanation based on results from previous research.

 

The results of the study show a clear difference between lower and upper secondary school in how students at each stage construct historical explanations, indicating differing expectations of what students are supposed to do with explanations in each stage. Teachers' practices are more varied: while a majority of the included teachers manifest a disciplinary understanding of historical explanation, in line with previous research about historical explanation in educational contexts, other approaches with other emphases are also present. These include an emphasis of learning explanations as sets of facts, as well as approaches that aim for making the knowledge of historical explanation useful outside of the history subject. Examples of such aims found in the study are to enhance empathetic understanding of other people, and helping students to orient themselves in relation to present-day issues.

Abstract [en]

Historical explanation is a fundamental component of historical accounts. Learning how to construct and analyse such explanations is therefore an important aspect of the process of teaching and learning history. This thesis investigates how teachers and students in Sweden handle this aspect in the context of education and assessment.

 

The thesis consists of four different studies that alternate the focus on either students or teachers, in lower or upper secondary school. Teachers are investigated mainly through classroom observations, students mainly through analyses of written answers.

 

The study analyses common patterns among teachers and students, finding that student answers to a high degree conform to the knowledge requirements of the course they are studying. Teachers present a wider and more varied understanding of historical explanation that goes beyond what is captured in the knowledge requirements, indicating the potential for explanations to develop empathy, and for helping students to orient themselves in relation to present-day issues.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2020. , p. 169
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2020:8Studier i de samhällsvetenskapliga ämnenas didaktik ; 38
Keywords [en]
history education, historical explanation, causation, cause and consequence, explanatory progression, historical thinking, use of history
National Category
History Didactics
Research subject
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-76141ISBN: 978-91-7867-091-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7867-101-4 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-76141DiVA, id: diva2:1383994
Public defence
2020-02-21, 9C 203, Karlstad, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-01-31 Created: 2020-01-09 Last updated: 2020-01-31Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. History Teaching between Multiperspectivity and a Shared Line of Reasoning: Historical  Explanations in Swedish Classrooms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>History Teaching between Multiperspectivity and a Shared Line of Reasoning: Historical  Explanations in Swedish Classrooms
2018 (English)In: Nordidactica: Journal of Humanities and Social Science Education, ISSN 2000-9879, no 2018:4, p. 136-159Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the presence of multiperspectivity in history teaching through teachers' constructions of historical explanations in classroom interactions.  The concept of multiperspectivity is linked to the related concept of interpretation as a central aspect of comprehension of history, in particular to the idea of including different interpretations of the same historical event or process. This idea, as expressed in the current Swedish history syllabus, is contrasted with the notion of establishing a shared line of reasoning as a central aim of teaching practices. The study is built on classroom observations of three teachers in lower secondary school, and specifically analyses how historical explanations are constructed as more or less open to different interpretations. The results indicate that explanations only occasionally are presented as open to different interpretations, and that the degree of openness is influenced by adaptation to student groups, but also possibly by the content matter. The study suggests that the notion of multiperspectivity may come into conflict with the aim of establishing a shared line of reasoning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: CSD Karlstad, 2018
Keywords
HISTORY EDUCATION, HISTORICAL EXPLANATION, INTERPRETATION, MULTIPERSPECTIVITY
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-70713 (URN)
Available from: 2019-01-22 Created: 2019-01-22 Last updated: 2020-01-09Bibliographically approved
2. "Förklaringar är ju allt på nåt sätt": En undersökning av hur fem lärare använder historiska förklaringar i undervisningen
Open this publication in new window or tab >>"Förklaringar är ju allt på nåt sätt": En undersökning av hur fem lärare använder historiska förklaringar i undervisningen
2014 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The main purpose of this multiple case study is to investigate how high school history teachers in Sweden use historical explanations in their classroom teaching.  Specifically, the study explores how explanations are constructed in the clasroom interactions, and what thinking tools, if any, the teachers use to help students grasp central aspects of the historical explanation in question. The case study is based upon observation data from the classrooms of five Swedish high school teachers.

A theoretical underpinning of this study is that historical explanations are best understood as cases of complex causality. In order to describe these cases as they are presented in the context of a classroom, a model for analysis is used which draws upon research conclusions from several fields, chiefly instructional theory (Gaea Leinhardt), theory of history (C.Behan McCullagh) and historical thinking (Peter Seixas). The study presents each teacher as a separate case in one chapter, while another chapter focuses on what different tools each teacher uses in his/her explanations. In the last empirical chapter, the teachers’ explanations are discussed in relation to how they emphasize and relate to diffent historical thinking concepts.

The study shows that while explanations are intimately interconnected with causality, their use is intertwined with other historical thinking concepts. Furthermore,  teachers use a multitude of different tools when working with  explanations. While certain tools aim at reinforcing students’ thinking about causality, they may simultaneously weaken the explanation’s value for something else, such as historical empathy. Thus, the importance of planning for specific teaching objectives is emphasized by the study. 

Abstract [sv]

Förmågan att resonera om orsaker och konsekvenser för att därigenom förklara historiska skeenden är en central förmåga i historisk kunskap. Hur gör lärare när de arbetar med historiska förklaringar i undervisningen? Den frågan är utgångspunkten för denna studie, som bygger på klassrumsstudier av fem yrkesverksamma historielärares undervisning.

Särskild vikt läggs vid att identifiera olika redskap som lärarna använder för att tydliggöra olika aspekter av förklaringar i undervisningen.

 Undersökningen visar hur förklaringar i undervisningspraktiken påverkas av faktorer som kursinnehåll, elevgrupp och undervisningens målsättningar. Ett antal didaktiska redskap för att arbeta med förklaringar identifieras. Vidare visar undersökningen också hur förklaringar i undervisningspraktiken kan vara sammanflätade med andra aspekter av historisk kunskap, som historisk empati och källhantering.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2014. p. 148
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2014:43Studier i de samhällsvetenskapliga ämnenas didaktik ; 24
Keywords
high school, class room study, history education, historical explanation, causality, cause and consequence, historical thinking concepts
National Category
History
Research subject
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-33259 (URN)978-91-7063-578-6 (ISBN)
Presentation
2014-10-02, B17, Åsö vuxengymnasium, Blekingegatan 55, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-09-12 Created: 2014-07-17 Last updated: 2020-01-09Bibliographically approved
3. Explaining the Third Reich: Swedish students' causal reasoning about the Nazi seizure of power in Germany
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Explaining the Third Reich: Swedish students' causal reasoning about the Nazi seizure of power in Germany
2018 (English)In: Curriculum Journal, ISSN 0958-5176, E-ISSN 1469-3704, Vol. 29, no 1, p. 60-76Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The topic of this study is how Swedish students aged 15-16 use causal reasoning in history when given a high-stakes task about explaining a historically significant event, the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. The study is based on student texts from the Swedish national test in history. The student texts are mainly analysed with regards to how many, and what kinds of, causal factors are used by the students. The study finds that while most students are able to combine agents and situational factors in their explanations, the explanations show a recurring theme of combining a generic sense of economic crisis with Hitler and the German people as the important agents, to the detriment of other causes that could open up for different interpretations of why the Nazi regime came to power. To counteract this, the study suggests increased emphasis on some contextual factors in teaching practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2018
Keywords
History, assessment, subject knowledge, secondary schools
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-67489 (URN)10.1080/09585176.2017.1398098 (DOI)000432636600005 ()
Available from: 2018-06-07 Created: 2018-06-07 Last updated: 2020-01-09Bibliographically approved
4. Qualifying counterfactuals: students' use of counterfactuals for evaluating historical explanations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Qualifying counterfactuals: students' use of counterfactuals for evaluating historical explanations
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-76139 (URN)
Available from: 2020-01-08 Created: 2020-01-08 Last updated: 2020-01-09

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