Re-creation of worlds and times that are goneIn the U.S “Presence of the Past” project it was reported that film gave a stronger connection to the past than school studies (Rosenzweig and Thelen, 1998)!!!
were used to develop guidelines for using film in the teaching of history. And indeed the strategies are not exclusive to teaching with film = apply to many other teaching situations
“Now let’s watch source C”: Celluloid history, pedagogy
and disciplinary understandings
Dr Debra Donnelly, University of Newcastle.
Set in the past, may be based around an historical event
Produced for the popular consumption with a
Often not based on historical record - narrative can be
heavily fictionalized and manipulated for entertainment
Cited by Australians as one of the main activities that
connect them to the past (Hamilton and Ashton, 2003)
An historical feature film
These big-budgetted feature films are designed to be
emotional and memorial experiences (Metzger, 2007)
tend to become a community source of historical
(Davis, 2000; Wineburg, 2001).
They attract broad audiences in our globalized Australian
We should acknowledge film and television as the great history
educators of our time” (Weinstein, 2001:27)
The historical understanding skills have been highlighted in
the Australian Curriculum History, teachers are tasked with
going beyond communication of a narrative to examine
Continuity and change
Cause and effect
Perspective taking and empathetic understanding
Interpretation and Contestability
Feature film is a suitable vehicle for communicating
historical narrative to an audience/class
BUT can it be used to look deeper than the story and
give insights into the nature of the discipline?
Surveys of history teacher practice with feature film
Interviews with teachers to further explore practice and
Case studies to examine the teaching practice – a range
of opinions, styles and objectives. Interviews, classroom
observations and analysis of written evidence such as
teaching programs and units, assessment tasks and
student work. (n=6)
Researching filmic pedagogies
Are teachers using feature film to teach history? If so,
Can feature film be used to explore the nature of
historical knowledge and encourage historical
understanding in a classroom setting? If so, could a set of
guidelines be developed for this undertaking?
Feature films commonly used in the teaching of history in
schools - motivation and empathy are the two most cited
Little guidance or support material for teachers on effective
use of film
For many there appears to be a lack of integration of the
film into the learning
Historical feature films were usually not examined as a
source and not used to teach about the nature of history
Baseline data observations
Case studies – demonstrations from teacher practice.
Guidelines – implementation strategies
The most successful teachers understood the importance of
developing a framework for exploring the film.
These allowed the feature film to be integrated into the unit
and so connected with and compared to the other historical
For example: Overall focus - Why is Ned Kelly famous in Australian
history? Is his fame warranted?
Use T charts to take notes on these two questions as you watch:
1.Ned Kelly hero or villain?
2.How does the film-maker make us like or dislike Ned Kelly?
Now select an episode from the film that you have identified. What
other evidence indicate about it? Is it at odds with the film
In groups organise a presentation to answer – Is this film claiming to
history? Is it supported by evidence?
Integration of film into themes of the unit
- Conceptual frameworks
Of the observed teachers that used film as a source – most
used the film as a secondary source
Only a few worked through an analysis protocol – such as
author/director, origin, motive, context, audience, reception.
Addressed in different ways either by de-constructing film or
focusing on and verifying individual issues from the film
A need to consider emotional manipulation and distortion of
Vital to compare filmic representation with other primary and
Close analysis as source
A number of the teachers effectively used a cognitive
apprenticeship learning design – although none of them knew
Basically it is a staged learning model that moves from
modelling and imitation, to coaching and collaboration then
to fading support and independent exploration
For example, the teacher models analysis of one scene from
film as historical document, then has students continue in
pairs with the aid of class discussion for the next few and then
individuals are allocated scenes to evaluate and present to
class. Collective notions of historical representation in the film
Cognitive apprenticeship learning design
Several of the successful units included the use of graphic
organizers, such as T charts, spider diagrams and mind
Communication and summary devices to show the
organization and relationships of information, concepts
and ideas and to capture observations while viewing the
By arranging information spatially their students were
able to select the essential ideas and these were often
used as the basis for assessment tasks.
Graphic organizers and learning scaffolds
Film is a useful tool for examining values
Several teachers defined particular values, attitudes and
beliefs, such as human rights and citizenship rights and
Examined the values as presented in the film and connected
them to contemporary society
Used film as a stimulus for values discussion
For example: Freedom fighter or terrorist?
V for Vendetta used to study the concept of
terrorism in case study
Began with work on Guy Fawkes and then analysis of V and
moved to contemporary examples.
“The way in which our historian considers history is
conducive to the creation of something new.”
(Stengers 1999, p.17).
Range from writing argumentative essays and constructing
websites to building models or making historical “artefacts” to
role plays, speeches and dramatic simulations
Encourages further exploration and synthesis, relates the films
to other historical material and can lead to what the Quality
Teaching Model calls Deep Knowledge and Understanding.
Feature films have great potential to teach not only the
narrative but about the nature of historical interpretation
The rapid proliferation of technology appears to have
caught the profession out – the majority of teachers had
little or no expertise in multi-modal semiotics or analysis
Very few (8%) of history teachers reported studying
history and film in training or post-grad contexts and
many were unsure of how to integrate and interrogate
If we are to be relevant to students and connect with
their lifeworld experiences, this needs immediate
attention in pre-service teacher training and professional
Hamilton, P. & Ashton, P. (2003). At home with the past: Initial findings from
the survey. Australian Cultural History (23), 5-30.
Marcus, A. S. (2003). Celluloid blackboard: Teacher
practices with film and students' historical
understanding. Unpublished dissertation, Stanford University.
Metzger, S. A. (2007) Evaluating the educational potential of Hollywood history
movies. In A. S. Marcus (Ed.), Celluloid blackboard: Teaching
history with film (pp. 63-98). Charlotte, North Carolina, Information
Age Publishing Inc.
Weinstein, P. B. (2001). Movies as a gateway to history: The history and film
project. The History Teacher, 35(1), 27-48.
Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other
unnatural acts: Charting the
future of teaching the past. Philadelphia, USA: Temple