As Lendol Calder (2006) so eloquently notes: “When I claim that the typical, coverage-oriented [technique] is a wrongheaded way to introduce students to the goodness and power of history, I am not saying anything outrageous or new. But pedagogical inertia happens.” (p. 1359).
Similarly, Tony Townsand (1999) observed seven years earlier: “As far back as 1981, Menzies argued that previous educational reform had been similar to rearranging the toys in the toy box, when what we really needed was a whole new box” (p. 26).
Learning/assessment task design underpinned by the 7 dimensions of historical literacy
Situated problem tasks embedded in real-world storyAs exemplified above in ‘the Nike Quest’, the primary school children in the scenario were exposed to two different views of Nike: the brand name and the ancient figure. The problem arose when one child in the story (Norman) speculated that there is an ancient figure called Nike, which led to the name of a modern consumer item (also referred to as Nike). Whereas Nick is interested in the difference, Natalie seems to be oblivious to the fact that there might be an ancient Nike figure as Nick implies and Norman asserts. Unsurprisingly, the children in the story have different ‘truth claims’, presenting the teacher education students with a need for some inquiry. All learning scenarios (see Figure 2) were deliberately framed using a structured controversy approach and consisting of a number of sub-plots describing teachable moments, teacher characteristics and spontaneously occurring learning dilemmas.
The specific history learning curriculum (the excursion to the History Museum) is made explicit illustrating that practical off-campus learning forms an integral part of contemporary history learning and teaching (see Table 2).
Moreover, the main story is deliberately infused with some incidental learning through dialogue between the children as they are on their way to the Museum. The dialogue soon turns into an argument that erupts out of a spontaneous discussion involving a historical figure (Nike) and its relationship to the children’s lives (see Table 3). The argument is deliberately not settled, leaving teacher education students wondering if there is indeed a historical figure called Nike that may or may not have a direct relationship to the brand name Nike.
The two intersecting storylines (main story and sub plot 1) are followed by a further expansion or ‘twist’, namely that the teacher is thinking of a webquest that can be developed and is providing the title: The Nike Quest (teacher education students’ assignment). One implicit message is that the teacher is actively looking out for ‘teachable moments’, looking to consider the incorporation of history curriculum ideas that are developing organically. A second implicit message is that the teacher is well connected in a Social Studies network of likeminded teachers (see Tables 4 & 5). These teacher traits are essential for the development of a signature pedagogy for history.
A key message for teacher education students in this unit is the story itself, which forms the starting point of their assignment: History is all around us, embedded in the most unlikely situations and daily products (eg. running shoe), ready to be (re)discovered.
The inquiry-based history assignment for learning task design, as exemplified through the ‘Nike Quest’ scenario, makes apparent the difference in teacher education ‘student visibility and accountability’, traditionally referred to as engagement and taken-for-granted generic skill levels and prior knowledge, as student teachers of history are required to grapple with complex ideas and real-world scenario work
How did students react? Come embraced the challenge and others were terrified by it!
History SymposiumCanberra 2011
“Pedagogical inertia happens”: Designing a new education boxor rearranging the toys in the toy box? Eva Dobozy
The notion that students must first be given facts and then at some distant time in the future will ‘think’ about them is both a cover-up and a perversion of pedagogy. … One does not collect facts he (sic) does not need, hang on to them, and then stumble across the propitious moment to use them. One is first perplexed by a problem and then he makes use of the facts to achieve a solution. (Charles Sellers in Williams, 2010)
Traditional toy box Teacher-centric Content-focused Teaching ‘facts’ for ‘just-in-case’ ...
Tension between rhetoric and reality Lendol Calder noted: “When I claim that the typical, coverage-oriented [technique] is a wrongheaded way to introduce students to the goodness and power of history, I am not saying anything outrageous or new. But pedagogical inertia happens.” (Calder, 2006, p. 1359)
Similarly, Tony Townsend observed seven years earlier: “As far back as 1981, Menzies argued that previous educational reform had been similar to rearranging the toys in the toy box, when what we really needed was a whole new box”. (Townsend, 1999, p. 26)
Introducing a ‘new history toy box’ A ‘new toy box’ for history learning and teaching for trainee teachers Following historical literacy descriptors adapted from Taylor and Young (2003) Consisting of 7 Dimensions
Teacher is on the lookout for ‘teachable moments’ Organic curriculum development
Teacher collaboration Getting a ‘flavour’ of the social studies network and its relationship to future-oriented learning
Learning through assignment work A key message for teacher education students in this unit is the story itself. It is the starting point of their assignment: History is all around us, embedded in the most unlikely situations and daily products a running shoe’s name and its historical roots, ready to be (re)discovered.
Inquiry-based history assignment for learning task design The ‘Nike Quest’ scenario example Illustrating the difference in student/teacher roles, motivation and skill requirements All student groups design different products All student groups use different processes No ‘one right way’ of approaching complex problem tasks No guarantee to getting it ‘right’ the first time Requiring much effort, resilience and self efficacy
How did teacher education students react? I enjoy stimulating debate and ... I have enjoyed putting the webquest together. I think many people in the course are questioning the approach you take, and wonder how much they are learning, but I think they won’t see the value until much later in their lives, when they find themselves in classrooms with kids who need to discuss stuff and they refer back to the [history class] in their minds and ‘facilitate!’ … I have valued your lectures and your tutorials and most especially this assignment. Thank you. (Student teacher, 2010) I have attended all but one of the lectures and tutorials and I still don’t know what you have been trying to teach us. I know as much about teaching [history] now as I did before the start of the semester. … The assignment guidelines are so vague and disjointed; it is nearly impossible for someone like myself, who requires explicit instruction, to get the point. Considering the first four weeks of the semester was spent with students asking [the lecturer and tutor] what the assignment was about, goes to show there was a fundamental flaw in the design of the assignment. …. I am still extremely frustrated by this subject and understandably terrified about failing it. (Student teacher, 2010)
What have I learnt? Students’ ability and willingness to engage with a new toy box varies Student and staff buy-in is crucial A systems-approach is the only feasible way forward
What have I learnt ? (con’t) A prevalent culture of learnt behaviour Dependency on extrinsic motivation and traditional ‘teaching’ The monitoring of teacher education students’ learning behaviour and self-management skills (or the lack thereof), is warranted Teacher education students may need special training to help them understand the value of complex assessment for learning tasks
Conclusion Inquiry-based history assessment for learning tasks may form one of a number of tools to change the current toy box of history learning and teaching as we undergo a curriculum renewal process and look forward to the Australian History Curriculum implementation.
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