5 articles (+2) I have found helpful in my research

March 7, 2011 at 7:59 am 2 comments

Posted By Samantha Cutrara

We all go into our research with key ideas. For me, some of those ideas are: students are smart and have an instinctual interest in histories that will help shape their futures; history is emotional and that it is important that the emotive aspects of history are not stripped out of learning for the stake of standards; history is a language of the nation and like all languages, power and privileges are written into the words we say and the narratives we craft; and finally, we all have prior knowledges and preconceived beliefs that are important to articulate before, during, and after learning.

My ideas have been shaped and crafted by an innumerable amount of experiences, learnings, and observations, but when I think of some key articles that shaped the work I am doing right now, these five (plus two bonus) articles come to mind. I thought I’d share them as well as the key ideas that I have gleaned from them.

1. Levstik, Linda S. 2000. Articulating the Silences: Teachers’ and adolescents’ conceptions of historical significance In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and international perspectives., edited by P. N. Stearns, P. Seixas and S. Wineburg. New York New York University Press.

Although this study was different than Levstik’s usual research I go back to it often and wish there was more! She found that the “controversial” aspects of national history were the exact same histories that students gravitated towards but that teachers and teacher candidates avoided. This is so interesting because on one hand, students are saying what they want in the history they study but that teachers may not feel equipped to bring these controversies to the classrooms. How can we as researchers better tap into what students want, and need, from their histories and how can we make these learning spaces safe and ethical for both students and teachers?

2. Segall, Avner. 2006. What’s the Purpose of Teaching a Discipline, Anyway? In Social Studies – The New Generation: Re-searching in the Postmodern, edited by A. Segall, E. E. Heilman and C. H. Cherryholmes. New York: Peter Lang.

I found this collection, and Segall’s work in particular, when I thought that no one was interested in postmodernism and history/social studies education anymore. Although the collection wasn’t without its flaws, Segall’s article grounded many of the theories I was thinking about within the current context of history education in which Seixas’ ideas of historical thinking dominates. Whereas in his often cited article in Knowing, Teaching, and Learning, Seixas says that postmodernism has no place in the history classroom, Segall argues that what Seixas is interested in doing is actually very similar to postmodernism. Because I am interested in postmodernism and history education and I like some aspects of Seixas’ work but not all, this article was helpful is sorting out this conflict that seems to arise in my own interpretation of this work. Segall has published on this work in a couple other settings, but I would recommend this collection to anyone with interests in postmodernism and history/social studies generally.

3. Clark, Anna. 2009. Teaching the Nation’s Story: Comparing public debates and classroom perspectives on history education in Australia and Canada. Journal of Curriculum Studies 41 (6):745-762.

I met Anna Clark when she was here in Toronto doing her Post-Doc research that this article is based on. Like Levstik above, she found that students were interested in history but that the way it was taught left students feeling board and isolated from the content. Again, I am interested in hearing students’ voices in relationship to the history they need and want from the future and it was great reading about what students in Canada had to say about their education.

4. Epstein, Terrie. 1998. Deconstructing Differences in African-American and European-American Adolescents’ Perspectives on U.S. History. Curriculum Inquiry 28 (4):397-422.

Another article about students’ perspectives of history education, but in this article Epstein looks at the ways African- and European-American students interpreted American history especially in relation to race. She found that students’ subject positions allowed them to “hear” particular things about history, thus constantly supporting their world views. This is an important issue because by looking at the construction of the historical narrative, history education may be a good site to identify and dismantle White privilege, but are we preparing students to enter this space in a way in which they can learn and teach?

5. van Hover, Stephanie, and Elizabeth Yeager. 2007. ‘I Want to Use My Subject Matter to…’: The role of purpose in one U.S. secondary history teachers’ instructional decision making. Canadian Journal of Education 30 (3):670-690.

In the original conceptualization of my thesis research, I didn’t think much about teachers, I focused on students; but this was an important article that reminded me that teachers steer the ship and it is often their own map they are using. Van Hover and Yeager found that even when teachers are given the tools in a teacher education program to teach a certain way, once they are in their own classroom the instructional strategies they use are based on their own ideas about why they are there and what they should be doing. I am constantly thinking about this article when I am working with teachers because without coming to the fore with these assumptions, my own included, articulated then any intervention wouldn’t take hold.

BONUS! (aka self-promotion)

6. Cutrara, Samantha.  (2010).  “Transformative History: The possibilities of Historic Space.”  Canadian Social Studies, 44(1). From http://www2.education.ualberta.ca/css/CSS_44_1_REVISED.pdf

An article based on my Masters’ thesis that outlines my conceptualization of Historic Space and the possibilities I see for it. I am currently testing Historic Space in four classrooms in the GTA in order to see where, or if, there are possibilities for critical and meaningful learning opportunities in average history classrooms.

7. Cutrara, S. (2009). “To Placate or Provoke: A critical review of the disciplines approach to history curriculum.”  Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies/La revue de l’association canadienne pour l’étude de curriculum, 7(2).  From https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/jcacs/issue/view/1466/showToc

As I mentioned, I take issue with many of the underlying premises of Seixas’ approach to history education and like Segall above I take a closer look at what is implicitly or explicitly done in a “disciplines” approach to history education.

Comments appreciated!

More information about me or my research can be found at www.SamanthaCutrara.com


Entry filed under: Research, Resources. Tags: , .

Are Canadian Universities Academically Adrift? Looking for the outcomes in the history courses I took

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Daniel Eisenmenger  |  March 13, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Thank you for proposing this interesting lectures. I have just read the article by Anna Clarke and there are quite some similarities to discussions in Germany on the role of “national” history in the curriculum.

  • 2. Cynthia Wallace-Casey  |  March 13, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Hi Samantha… I discovered your Canadian Social Studies article this week. Great piece! Thanks for posting this…


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