This past year has been a learning experience for a number of reasons, but learning is not always easy.
For my Ph.D. journey, I think I have come to a crossroad. While the courses have all been successfully done, I am struggling with the next stage. This is a good space to work this out and I have to do this now. Writing is thinking.
I am supposed to be preparing for my comprehensive exams – two 4000-word essays one on research, and one on methodology. But here is the sticking point. I am not sure anymore if I can do this. I have no information that tells me that I can do this.
I know I can write well, but I am not convinced that I can write in an academic style. No one can even tell you what an academic style really is. It is hard to figure this out. So far the feedback has not been good. The people I have been working with struggle to give constructive feedback, but that is not really their problem. This is a different world from what I am used to.
Professors are paid to research and enhance the reputation of the institution. Knowing how to guide new academic writers is not something that has to be in their toolbox. This is a real shame because so much can be learned from carefully crafted feedback. Telling it ‘like it is’ is not always the wisest approach.
What this means is that the graduate student can work in a bit of a vacuum. It is a challenging working relationship.
Elementary and secondary schools used to have the same problem, but so much work has been done over the years to address this. Teachers know how to bring students along, encouraging them to do more and to do better.
This is certainly a skill that needs to be learned. No institution is naturally good at this. While public schools have made constructive feedback an essential skill that educators need to develop, there is less emphasis on acquiring this essential part of teaching at the postsecondary level.
As we give and receive feedback, people get defensive. Feelings get hurt. Too often, the improvements we’re going for don’t happen, because the feedback isn’t given in a way that the receiver can embrace.
Students who are ok living in this vacuum will succeed. Students who want or need more may not.
At this point, I have to decide if I want to continue here as a student. It is harder to jump through so many imaginary hoops when you have already proven yourself over a long and challenging career.
I choose the positive. I work with people outside the university who get this. As a consequence, I work very hard for them and the effort is appreciated.
This has been a good experience but I want better. A thriving respectful relationship where real learning happens is what excites me.
Maybe I have been looking in the wrong places. My bad.
One of the reasons people don’t make progress after receiving feedback is that they don’t necessarily know what to do with it. “If you want feedback to make an impact,” Hirsch notes, “you have to put it in terms that people can operationalize.” In his book, he cites studies showing that regular feedback doesn’t typically result in a transfer of new skills or habits, but when that feedback is combined with coaching, the transfer skyrockets to 95 percent.
I am starting my second year in the Ph.D. program at Ottawa University. Over the summer, I completed my last required course so, in theory, I don’t need to take any more courses and I can move on to getting ready for my comprehensive exam.
Many of the people in my cohort have written or are writing their comprehensives. There seems to be a pronounced rush to get this next stage done. Once successfully completed, you can actually call yourself a Ph.D. Candidate.
I’m not doing that, there is too much I still don’t know.
For one thing, I recently changed my research topic. I wrote about this in early June.
The change moved me in an entirely different direction and I have a new wonderful supervisor who specializes in the same area I am interested in. To be honest, the change in thinking started back in April when my first attempt at writing a comprehensive-style essay flopped.
After a year of courses at the graduate level, all I feel is that I don’t know anything. I continue to read every day, but it is easy to lose touch with where I am going with all this. For the next few months, I will focus on learning about quantitative methodology, something I will need for sure and a topic I know nothing about.
I am also starting (again) to look at a different methodology – one that can connect to the research I hope to do one day. It is interesting how we make these decisions. In speaking with my supervisor, we talked about a method of research Sam Wineburg used to study the thinking patterns of students and professors when assessing the value and credibility of a variety of historical sources ( see Wineberg, S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28, p. 495-520.) Wineburg used think aloud techniques to gather information on what his subjects were thinking about as they reviewed various sources. This happens to be an area my supervisor is very interested in so I am now reading up on the literature about this methodology. I am starting with Verbal Protocols of Reading: The Nature of Constructively Responsive Reading By Michael Pressley and Peter Afflerbach (1994). This sets the stage for everything else I will read on this methodology. This work is in its early days, so my Zotero on this topic looks a little bleak.
This will grow quickly. Recording people’s thinking as they review different online sources is a fascinating way to understand how students especially make decisions on what websites are actually credible to them.
My question now looks like this:
In an increasingly complex post-truth world, people in general – students and teachers in particular – struggle to discern credible sources of online information. Their ability to judge multiple sources of information has and will have a major impact on their collective ability to make decisions in a modern, democratic society.
We need to better understand the challenges presented by a post-truth world and what strategies and techniques need to be developed to provide educators and students with appropriate tools to effectively evaluate multiple online sources of information.
This is what I want to go with. It is a big jump from where I started, but this represents the best of my thinking and research so far. Is this a good effort? I have no idea. The paper received a good mark, but no comments at all. That’s not right.
So next steps, read lots (again) but this time on methodology. Come up with three questions I can use for my comprehensive, practice writing on two of these questions (I think/hope I have one of these covered) then take a month to write on two of these questions.
I have learned over the past year to take small steps and not expect too much. Grad students are left very much on their own and you have to have a good supervisor, especially after year one, to make this whole process work.
I have also learned that this is a venture that favours the young. We the older students offer decades of experience in the field of education, but that seems to have little cache in academia. There is no way I could be writing on this topic without the experience I gained implementing digital technology in the school system. But more on this later.
This post is a reflection on a presentation I attended on June 27 by Dr. Georg Marschnig, Ph.D., University of Waterloo. The post has been supplemented by additional online sources along with the presentation notes kindly provided by the author.
On the morning of March 4, 1945, a B-24 bomber the Strange Cargo took off from its base in Italy. Their mission was to bomb the rail lines in Graz, Austria. The crew was in a good mood, they were scheduled for a few days at a rest camp after the mission (“Former Army Pilot Recalls Little-Known WWII Tragedy, the Mates Who Didn’t Make It,” 2017)
The Strange Cargo was last seen shortly after 1:00 pm by fellow airmen. Around 15 seconds after dropping its bombs, the plane was hit in the nose and wing by flak and burst into flame. Eight of the ten crewmen were able to parachute out of the plane before it crashed. (“Operation Graz, Austria March 4, 1945,” n.d.)
Two of the crewmen were quickly captured by the local police. A major in the SS arrived on the scene and ordered one of the police officers to shoot the Americans. The police refused. A soldier on medical leave Max Karl Lienhart then arrived on his bicycle, pushed through the gathering crowd and shot the two fliers.
A third airman was captured by the police and was transferred to SS custody. Lienhart followed the SS soldier and shot the American. A fourth aviator was found by German soldiers, and he too was executed. The two pilots were smuggled out of Graz by Austrians and survived the war.
In the summer of 1945, a memorial was erected to the murdered airmen, no one knows (or will admit) who erected the monument.
Why this project?
What new insight did you gain about schooling;
The talk was presented by Dr. Georg Marschnig, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for the Didactics of History at the University of Graz. His lecture was part of the History Education in International Contexts series organized by the Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future project. Professor Marschnig is a former high school teacher who conducted a local history project starting in 2016 to investigate the origins of the war memorial erected in Graz (Georg Marschnig, 2022).
Over the years, the memorial has been vandalized and remained half-hidden on the side of a busy roadway. Dr. Marschnig, then a high school teacher, worked with his students to uncover the story behind the monument. The research was conducted by the students over a two-year period and stands as an excellent example of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). The students undertook an extensive study of World War II air warfare, held town meetings with the residents of Graz and interviewed local residents and former fliers. As a concluding activity, the students proposed remodelling the memorial in order to tell the full story behind the deaths of the Americans (“Operation Graz, Austria March 4, 1945,” n.d.)
How do schools frame notions of citizenship;
The project really is an attempt to redefine the story of a community at the end of the Second World War. It reframed citizenship through their investigation. Citizens were obliged to look back to a time long forgotten. Their work showed that members of the community were complicit in war crimes, something the town was not interested in resurrecting. The story is well documented in the records of war crimes trials and Lienhart was found guilty of three of the murders and was hanged in 1946.
What kind of relationships in schools and in educational decision-making processes foster real learning;
Because this is an action research project, the students along with their teacher became actively involved in uncovering events in the past that the community preferred to forget. In doing this work, the community became engaged in looking at their own stories and was obliged to reflect on the actions of some of their neighbours.
How do power structures affect learning?
This is a question that I asked during the presentation:
It seems that the students were revealing a dark past the community wanted to forget. In essence, they were revealing an important truth. Has this had any impact on how the students look at modern-day politics and the post-truth environment?
Professor Marschnig responded by focusing on the relationship between power and truth:
They learned a lot – some stories are told some are not – [there is] a strong connection to power. It is always important to look and double-check the information that they have. (Georg Marschnig, 2022)
In the notes to his presentation he also writes:
For the young people, it became crystal clear that cultures of remembrance in the public sphere are always linked to questions of power and are embedded into a field of discourse, which responsible citizens can influence and change. The first, authentic steps in this field were taken as part of the school project and it should not come as surprise to you that some of the young people are now actively involved in local politics (2022).
Some elements of the community did have a vested interest in keeping these stories quiet and the students were publicly confronted when they presented their findings to the community. They were accused of dragging up the past, something that no one wanted to do. City politicians also pushed back against any proposed changes to the monument but were eventually obliged to agree to changes that illuminated the dark history behind the murders.
How were race, class, gender differences framed in the event?
The YPAR project brought to the surface old animosities that had laid dormant for 60 years. While the old memorial did state that four American airmen had died on March 4th, 1945 in Graz, there was no mention that the airmen had been executed by local community members following a Nazi policy called Fliegerlynchjustiz in English – “lynch justice for fliers”. Rather, the old monument stated that the aviators had been killed by “cowardly Nazi-fascist murderers”.
The stories about the murders are available from a few sources (Baltimore Sun, Mar 04, 2017 ; Archive Report US Forces 1941-1945), however, there had never been a local examination of the event. It is important to note here that the students were the ones who chose to work on this project. This closely follows the methodology outlined in YPAR.
What connections can you draw with readings, lectures, and discussions we have held in the class?
Notions of citizenship are fluid. How we define ourselves as citizens can change when new information comes to light. The investigation of the students centred on a forgotten war-time memorial. Their work led to public remembering of a war crime committed in March of 1945. The students also participated in rededication plans for the memorial to make clear what had happened.
What creative ideas or astute analysis about education did you encounter in the event?
Youth Participatory Action Research is a powerful tool to examine local issues of interest to the researchers. One of the key principles of YPAR is that young people become active participants in the work and play a large role in researching the truth. (Petrone et al., 2021)
This is an important technique that can be used by students and teachers to combat the miasma of post-truth that we struggle with today. By completing this work, the students were able to gain a greater respect for the truth and the challenges that come from confronting stories that have been buried in the past.
The methodology (YPAR) used by the students has been suggested as a way to gain a stronger affiliation with the truth, so important in a post-truth world. (Chinn et al., 2021) Students involved in this project have now become involved in local and regional government. It would seem that YPAR is good preparation for anyone who intends to enter a political career in the post-truth future.
The project provided the students with a way to start conversations with parents and grandparents about the war. Family stories can differ greatly from what the official stories present. The students best sum up why it is important to understand a community’s past:
“’What’s the point now?’ We were asked more than once. ‘They’re dead anyway!’ Well, ‘they’ may be dead, but we’re not. […] Why does this affect us now, although it has happened so long ago? It affects us because we live and our present and future are built on that very past that we wonder what it has to do with us.”
Chinn, C. A., Barzilai, S., & Duncan, R. G. (2021). Education for a “Post-Truth” World: New Directions for Research and Practice. Educational Researcher, 50(1), 51–60. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X20940683
Georg Marschnig. (2022). Sometimes it is enough to look back to see the Future clearly.
Petrone, R., Mirra, N., Goodman, S., & Garcia, A. (2021). Youth Civic Participation and Activism (Youth Participatory Action Research). In J. Z. Pandya, R. A. Mora, J. H. Alford, N. A. Golden, & R. S. de Roock, The Handbook of Critical Literacies (1st ed., pp. 50–60). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003023425-6
Finding a research topic that is really meaningful is hard work. It should be if you plan to spend five years working on it.
Maybe I am getting closer. I have abandoned anything about historical thinking concepts – this is an academic field that doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a pick-up in the school system. Lots of writers, questionable impact.
Searching for something new one of my advisors suggested that I start looking at Canadian historical websites to develop tools to test for validity.
I had forgotten how important this type of work was to me. I remember sitting on the school board’s tech advisory committee. One of the members (who actually knows a fair amount about education technology) suggested at one of our sessions that there was little point in using curated web tools when you could Google anything. Curated web material usually is expensive mainly because you have to pay someone to make sure the material you put out there has been reviewed for validity. This scene sticks with me to this day and I really wonder what advice school boards are giving to teachers now about how to access digital information.
A few weeks ago, I entered the world of post-truth. Post-truth is a new environment where confusion reigns. In this world, there are no shared facts on which to base decisions. There is widespread disagreement over what is known, how to know, and who to trust. Research as current as 2022 confirms this is a widespread problem that has not yet been dealt with by educators (see – Education for a “Post-Truth” World: New Directions for Research and Practice Clark A. Chinn, Sarit Barzilai, and Ravit Golan Duncan 2021)
I am citing only one reference here, but there is a vast body of research that backs up this claim. The research on digital information sources goes back over 20 years and begins in earnest with the work of Sam Wineburg, the wonderful writer of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (2001).
We can reach back further. Every generation has its own media that confound teachers and students. In 1991, Wineburg produced a study indicating that students tended to rely on textbook material even though they were presented with more credible primary historical evidence. The textbooks were preferred because students believed that they were just telling the facts. They adopted the story even though analysis showed that the textbooks didn’t get into much detail, were overly patriotic and political and were designed to offer information that could be answered on a multiple-choice exam (see Historical problem solving: A study of the cognitive processes used in the evaluation of documentary and pictorial evidence, Wineburg, 1991)
The current rapid reach of information is unprecedented and with that reach comes a diminishing ability to discern what is actually true.
I remember a presenter at one of the schools I worked at who specialized in the dangers of social media. He was really popular with parents and educators because he focused on creating fear. Students should not be allowed on Facebook etc (the social media at the time) because of the dangers that lurked behind the screen. There was no question that he was right about the abuses of social media, but the solution of just taking it away was misplaced.
As far back as the invention of movable type pamphleteers in 18th century America were free to print anything that would fit on the page. Thomas Jefferson watched the increasing availability of printed material along with the associated increase in baseless claims and stories. His conclusion however was not to stop the publishing of leaflets and books but to educate the public to be wary of what they read.
If we think [the people] not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
(quoted in Wineburg, McGrew, 2019)
Researchers have been very good at presenting the dangers that exist in the post-truth world. They would agree with Jefferson, that education is the key – but what kind of education?
At the end of every research paper I am reading these days is the declaration by academics that something must be done about the post-truth world:
Any successful approach will likely need to go beyond modest tweaks to current instruction, which will inevitably increase the demands on teachers and educational designers. Part of the research agenda should therefore include work on how to implement and scale up proposals for ambitious instruction. Our call is for rapid, intensive research and design to develop these (and other) paths of promoting students’ capacities to engage in apt epistemic performance.
Education for a “Post-Truth” World: New Directions for Research and Practice Clark A. Chinn , Sarit Barzilai, and Ravit Golan Duncan, 2020, p. 58
So, I am asking.
How have different writers sought to critically address the ability of students and teachers to make sense of multiple information sources in a Post-Truth World?
What is Post-Truth? What are some post-truth reasoning challenges?
What is the current ability of educators and students to accurately assess multiple forms of information?
What can we do to teach complex sensemaking skills to educators and students?
Future Directions and Ideas: What are the ways forward?
Along with all these questions, there is a vast array of material I need to read to catch up on what researchers are saying. Maybe someone has an answer – this is what we need to do with our curriculum – but I haven’t seen this yet.
If you have any ideas, please let me know. There is no question that this is something we need to get right. The consequences of losing a grasp on the truth can be seen around us, will we respond?
I am adding this piece about Wikipedia. One of my professors has suggested some really interesting material on Wikipedia and how this could be a good tool to help us adapt to a post-truth world. Worth watch.
New professor of the practice of health services, policy and practice, Claire Wardle, is not a health professional. She is, however, considered one of the leading experts on misinformation. Co-founder of First Draft, a non-profit dedicated to supporting organizations fighting misinformation, Wardle talks to Megan Hall MPH’15, about her plans for collaborative work at Brown that aims not only to understand mis- and disinformation, but to create tools for more effective public health communication.
I am writing this for me, but you can read this if you want.
Whoever said that failure is good, that’s how students learn. Have you tried it? It is good learning, but it is really hard.
So, I want to read this post in January when my comprehensive exams are over. I did a mock version of my research question and I failed miserably. I think there is probably a comment on every paragraph I wrote. And I appreciate every comment. Two very busy academics took the time to go over every word I wrote, the fact that I came up short is good, it gives me something to work on.
It is hard after a long and pretty successful career to start over. It is like learning Spanish in downtown Consuelo (in the DR) you feel a little like a baby, each step is tentative, and everything is risky.
I certainly didn’t have to do this, but I have to take the long view right now. The courses were the easy part, the comprehensives are really serious and no one is going to give you a break here. I have six months to get ready for the comprehensives. My original research question was too much, it was a bit like flying in the face of a hurricane. I winced, so I need to move on.
My old question is gone, I don’t think I even understood what I was asking. I am going back to something I have experienced – how does one assess and use digital resources as a credible learning tool when there are no rules? Textbooks were easy, they were written by credible publishers and they have been approved by our provincial government.
Web information is different – this is a totally unregulated field. Does anyone understand how dangerous this can be? What is a good source? Who is behind the site? What is available at 8:30 in the morning when you have a 90-minute class to teach?
I think I was focusing on themes that were not my own. If you are going to spend four years studying something, you better choose something that you care about deeply. My advisors gently moved me away from a theme that really didn’t resonate. Digital literacy and the curation of learning resources for teachers and students is something I am passionate about. While textbooks are still produced for schools, people (school boards) don’t want to invest as much in digital materials. The temptation is to use Google – Google is free, Google will tell you what you need to know.
When I worked on a committee that advised the school board on digital implementation this attitude was shared by many. When something is free and it looks good it is very hard to convince people to invest in content and staff training to effectively use this content. This was shocking to me, but it makes sense. Digital curation is really hard and it costs money. School boards still focus on expensive textbooks. The idea that you should pay for digital content is still a bit of a reach.
So here is my new question:
Digital literacies and the teaching of history – the development of critical thinking skills to assess and curate learning material for the classroom.
This is my old question, not answering this well has taught me a great deal:
Drawing on existing history education scholarship, how have different writers sought to critically address the teaching of history education in Canada? In your response draw on the scholarly literature to show 1) the role of historical thinking concepts in Canada; 2) the tensions that currently exist; and 3) how these relate to settler colonial narratives about Canada’s past.
Thanks very much to my course prof and my academic advisor for taking the considerable time to go over my work. I am sure this was not easy to do and it took lots of time. Yes, in the trial run I didn’t do very well, but I will keep and read again every comment that they have written. Failure is tough, failure is liberating and it can be a wonderful teacher.
At the beginning of this year, I started work on my first assignment for the second semester. We were asked to develop a schedule for our academic work over the next few years – what would the day-to-day look like?
I wrote this assignment as a blog post and here it is.
Eleven days after I wrote this post, my mother died. We were then under the ludicrous convoy occupation and soon after that in an act reminiscent of the Second World War, Russia invaded Ukraine.
My schedule looks a little silly now.
Being in school; being a principal had some semblance of order. This calls for a different sort of calendar.
I do try to write in the morning. It sounds like a lovely idea, but that always doesn’t work out. I am writing this now at the end of a long day and a long week of writing and researching every day. Learn something new – work when you can, be more flexible, schedules crumble. (but, I am writing the final version this morning – much better)
I have done it. Three very demanding courses along with lots of thinking about what I will be writing about and researching for the next three years. The elements of the new plan reside in the questions I have been writing about for the past two weeks:
Choose a qualitative methodology – OK Critical Participatory Action Research (PAR). This was a true revelation for me. In PAR the actions and research are situationed in the real world. The product does not necessarily return to the academy, instead it is left in the hands of the participants. This type of work shows the ultimate respect for the subject and breaks down the barriers that usually exist in qualitative research. This reseach has true meaning and that is an inspiration. PAR is framed in social justice and focuses on revealing truth – truth with a plan – to the people who are part of the project. This kind of work offers so many incredible opportunities!
how have different writers sought to critically address the teaching of history education in Canada? – Here is a question that will stay with me. I wonder what people in our country think about their history? While it seems to be different in Quebec, most Canadian students have to take only one course in Canadian history while in high school. I have taught this course and have seen it taught many times. Most students see it as something they have to get through. Most probably come out of the course with a rudimentary understanding of their country’s history (Gibson & Peck 2020). In most cases, the teaching of history remains unchanged and relies on old, tired, and outmoded methodoligies. Barton and Levstik write:
One of us, in fact, has a daughter currently enrolled in eighth grade U.S. history, and she analyzes exactly as many primary sources, reads exactly as many works of historical literature, takes part in exactly as many inquiry projects and simulations, and considers exactly as many alternative historical perspectives as her father did nearly 30 years ago: zero. We wish this were an isolated example, but we know that it isn’t. (Barton & Levstik, 2004, p. 3)
how do tensions in this work these lead to a disruption of settler-colonial narratives about Canada’s past? The tensions are so interesting. Historical Thinking Concepts remain the accepted methodology, but there are questions – how many teachers actually use this in their classrooms? As a more scientific approach to the study of history – what qualitative features of our narrative are sidelined? We live in a society informed by the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are also more and more a diverse, multicultural society, especially in our urban centers – how can one methodology address all of these challenges?
This is a very rich experience. There are so many interesting questions I want to work on, and I just love the experience of exercising my mind and working on my writing. I have one course to go and then I get to start preparing for my comprehensives. I want to get this done by the fall.
So, next – a little reading for the next few weeks:
New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada – Penny Clark (Ed.)
Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts – Sam Wineburg
We Want to do More Than Survive – Bettina Love
History Education and the Construction of National Identities Carretero, Asensio, Rodriguez-Moneo (Eds.)
Beyond History for Historical Consciousness – Levesque and Croteau
Colonialism/Postcolonialism – Ania Loomba
Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan
This list comes from my profs and the research I have been doing. They are the foundation of the next step and I will be working through all this until the summer.
Next – I really need to figure out how to organize all this information. Some people are using Zotero, others NVivo some Dedoose. People speak with such authority about these programs, but I really need to do my own research and figure something that will work for me. In case I haven’t listed enough tools here are nine more.
I have to sort through the tangle of ideas to come up with questions for my comp question. Am I any closer to figuring this out?
And, finally another thing I have learned, it would be good to do this:
This is my third journal entry. I think I am getting close to a question, so it makes sense to keep a record of this here. I am not sure what happens next, but this is my thinking and the resources I have collected so far.
Developing a National Identity through the teaching of history
What is history education for?
What are the elements of the master national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum?
Who remains invisible in this narrative? (ethnic, transnational, diasporic, and Indigenous—)
How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History?
What role does the teaching of Historical Thinking Concepts play in deconstructing these national narratives?
How do teacher candidates perceive their role in teaching the only required Canadian History course in Ontario high schools?
How is this master national narrative disrupted by some teachers?
Given that scholars agree that state-sponsored history classrooms are complicit in perpetuating the master national narrative templates, how is history education in Canada responding? (Anderson p.5)
The Stories Nations Tell: Sites of Pedagogy, Historical Consciousness, and National Narratives Stephanie Anderson
What is the purpose of teaching history? What is our intention when we teach national narratives to students in our schools? Is it possible to explore our motivation when we develop a standard curriculum for the teaching of Canadian history? Barton and Levstik (2004) write that one of the considerations we must make when choosing what historical topics to teach is how this selection promotes the enhancement of the common good. One could ask – whose common good? Is there a common good or as Kendi (2019) writes there is no real mainstream world or school system. There are instead multiple real worlds and perspectives that need to be respected.
When it comes to teaching Grade 10 Canadian history – the only history course Ontario high schools students are required to take – how do we do this in a society that is made up of multiple world views? How do we engage students in such a way that the telling of the national narrative does this in a way that encompasses the multiple perspectives that make up our pluralistic society?
This is what I want to explore – What are the elements of the national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum? Who remains invisible in this narrative? How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History? In this paper, I plan to do this by surveying the research on the teaching of national narratives to students. There are a variety of approaches to dealing with this challenge and various calls to change the way we teach a course that plays such an important role in developing students’ evolving sense of nationhood. In my conclusion, I will point out some practices that offer the most hope for ensuring that the telling of our national narrative(s) respects the diversity and multiple world views of our students.
Reading Themes and bibliography
These are the articles I can use for my bibliography. I will read all of this and much more. The section on teaching national narratives will grow, this is the latest category I have added. Each category is linked to a google doc. For this piece, the links are unactivated. If you have any ideas for resources please let me know!
Historic Agency and Consciousness
This is a complex subject that I don’t really understand, but I do have some good resources
Teaching National Narratives
Teaching Historical Thinking
History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates
Students’ ideas about history
Continuity and Change
Alternatives to historical thinking concepts
Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation
Cause and Consequence
I think you can tell just by my collection of articles what areas interest me
It is time to get back to my researcher’s journal. The semester has been so busy with assignment work that there has been little time to think about anything else. Now after a great session with one of my profs – Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, I have some great material to work with!
First – I need a question. This is certainly a challenge, you would think this would be easy, but for my comps exam, I will need three questions and I write on two of these. The point here is to choose something that your committee will agree with and it is also important to come up with questions you can actually answer.
Where am I now?
So, I am starting with this – What would a poststructural or critical theory approach to examining grade 10 history teachers’ classroom practices look like?
This is probably the most challenging question that I am going to come up with. There needs to be something on epistemology or methodology so this is a theme to explore. But it is also grounded in reality – I am most interested in cataloguing how teachers are teaching the only mandatory history course in Ontario high schools. How is our national story being told in the classrooms of this province?
Thanks to VoicEd Radio and Dr. Ng-A-Fook there is an interview with Petra Munroe. This might help me with this first question.
Dr. Munro Hendry draws on curriculum studies, history, and philosophy to share her wisdom on the practice of history in relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic, curriculum history, and a history of education from a transatlantic perspective.
Nicholas Ng-A-Fook Twitter August 9, 2021
So far, I have a collection of reading themes where all the articles I have found so far have been organized – this is what it looks like now:
Historic Agency and Consciousness
Teaching Historical Thinking
History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates
Students’ ideas about history
Continuity and Change
Alternatives to historical thinking concepts
Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation
Cause and Consequence
There is a bit of a pattern here. The methodology of teaching history and more specifically, the teaching of historical thinking concepts are the two themes that are of the greatest interest right now.
What I need to work towards is a comprehensive knowledge of a particular topic. The topic revolves around the teaching of history in Ontario schools and the impact (if any) of historical thinking concepts. The question will be something like this – What are current history teaching methodologies used by history teachers and taught to teacher candidates? How are historical thinking concepts beginning to enter the school system?
This is probably still too unwieldy, but this is what I have right now. The next step – spend the next two weeks adding to the articles I have found and honing my question!
In all this I need to remember to keep this practical, make this something that is useful to teachers. For me this is essential. If I am eventually going to create something of value, it has to be situated in the classroom, it has to be grounded in reality.
When I think about qualitative research, I remember a group of Salvadoran teachers sitting on the floor talking about the challenges of teaching in a rural setting. They talk about their frustrations with the younger ones who have never lived in a time of war and all the loss and violence that was so much a part of their lives. They talk about crossing the Sumpul River to get away from the soldiers and their makeshift classrooms in the forest where they went to school.
I haven’t thought about these stories for a long time, but I am thinking about them now. The memories have been stirred up by the reading I have been doing on qualitative inquiry and what it means to use a narrative approach to conduct research. For me, the only meaningful study of the lives of these people would be through a rigorous qualitative study. Using the criteria that exists to conduct qualitative research we could learn a great deal from these people’s stories.
This was not what I was imagining when I started my courses in the fall. Now I am thinking about John Creswell and what he says about listening to the participant in the study and working to understand the lived experience of those you are talking to Creswell (2015).
I am also thinking back to the first article I read, Tracy’s ‘Big-Tent’ criteria for excellent qualitative inquiry (Tracy, 2010). The first criteria – Worthy topic – really struck me and this is challenging me to think in a different way about my own research.
Studies of worth excite interest and go places that are unexpected (Tracy, 2010, p. 841). That is what I want to do and this is certainly what good qualitative research should do. I have read and reread Samantha Cutrara’s book Transforming the Canadian History Classroom: Imaging a New We (Cutrara, 2020)and I now understand why this book is having such an influence on me. In my opinion, this is excellent qualitative research. It tells the story of four classrooms where the author attempted to turn conventional history teaching on its head.
Rather than teach the standard curriculum revolving around the two founding peoples, Cutrara allowed students, mainly from urban racialized schools in Toronto, to develop their own narratives. She calls this methodology Historic Space, and it focuses on deconstructing the historical narratives that are meaningless to the students she is working with (Cutrara, 2020, p. 168). The richness or rigour of her research comes from the stories she tells of her conversations with different students and also the pushback she experiences from some of the teachers she works with.
Cutrara is a very reflexive writer who has taken the time to write about the anger and frustration she encountered while doing this work. She wrote this book because after four years, she felt compelled to honour the voices of the students she worked with and to ensure that their voices were heard (Cutrara, 2020 p. ix.).
The research really resonates with me, not just because at one point I was a history teacher, but because she is telling the stories of the voiceless, another key component that Tracy identifies as good qualitative research (Tracy, p. 844).
Tracy also writes that good qualitative research should make a significant contribution. I do need to read more about how Cutrara’s arguments are being received. She goes against conventional thought on the use of historical thinking concepts in the classroom so while I consider this excellent qualitative research there may not be many academics who share my belief.
Returning to the classroom in El Salvador, I can imagine a researcher using Tracy’s model and Cutrara’s story-telling ability to get at the heart of good qualitative research. What an exciting challenge to bring such important stories into the light.
This is a different type of post, it may go on for years.
One thing I have been charged to do is to write every day. One of the writing challenges is to start a researcher’s journal. Everything in a Ph.D. program focuses on the end goal, the completion of a dissertation. There are many layers to this process, I am unpeeling one of them here.
I am very grateful for the writing prompts I have been getting over the past two weeks. My writing had dried up and while I love to write, I really did not see much to write about. Now I have a focus and I need to reserve time every day for writing.
I have two supervisors which is wonderful. I met with both of them last week to start work on this journey. Very slowly I think, I will develop some ideas on what I should focus on in my research.
What do I know so far?
I got into all of this because of historical thinking concepts. I love the idea that as teachers our first task is to help our students to think.
One of my advisors told me to read everything by Peter Seixas, the preeminent writer on historical thinking concepts in Canada. So, I need to go back and follow the train of his writing for the past 20 years. I can’t see how I am going to truly understand the philosophy and epistemology behind historical thinking without this deep dive.
As I learn new things and read more articles, I will have to find a system for keeping a record of all this. Over the summer I used this chart along with summary notes to start documenting the articles I am reading. The chart is a good way to clarify my thinking so I will start using this again with some modifications.
content or topic with matching photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy, methodology, epistemology
text – big ideas/concepts
← relates to my thesis?
← applications for own teaching/inspirations
I have added epistemology and Methodology to the chart, also changed other resources to relates to my thesis
The chart will continue to change and eventually there will be hundreds of articles, but putting down something here helps me to commit.
Apart from historical thinking, I am really interested in how we choose the stories we are going to tell our students and how this changes over time. This week, I am going to work on Reverberating Echoes: Challenging Teacher Candidates to Tell and Learn From Entwined Narrations of Canadian History (2011) by Kent Den Heyer and Laurence Abbott. Narrative is something I am really interested in, so this is another clue.
I am learning about qualitative research, and this is something I want to understand better. There is more of a story-telling approach in qualitative research and this immediately appeals to me. I am also learning about oral history which is fascinating.
Can I combine oral history with qualitative research?
I also have to work on my academic writing and how to do citations and references properly. The only way to do this is to keep writing and listen carefully to all the advice I get.
These are early days, so my journal is a collection of random ideas. I have decided to put this out on my regular blog so that I can keep this process visible. I also hope that along the way I will get some sage advice that might help.
This is the introduction, the next post will be a chapter 1.