Handbook of Research on Teacher Education in History and Geography

by Cosme J. Gómez Carrasco (Volume editor) Pedro Miralles Martínez (Volume editor) Ramón López Facal (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 410 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgement
  • Contents
  • Contributors
  • Introduction
  • Part I Research approaches in the training of geography and history teachers
  • Chapter 1 Quantitative research in education
  • Chapter 2 Mixed methods in education research
  • Chapter 3 Teaching the narrative competence in history education: Lessons from Canada
  • Chapter 4 Please let it be a history test with a content I can handle: How girls and boys perform in the national test in history in Sweden
  • Part II Researches about opinions and perceptions of teachers in initial training and in practising
  • Chapter 5 The representation of geographical and historical education among teachers-in-training: An Ibero-American perspective
  • Chapter 6 An analysis of the perceptions of trainee Secondary Education teachers on current historiographical trends
  • Chapter 7 History and geographical thinking skills: between disciplinary knowledge and knowledge for teaching in Teacher Education
  • Chapter 8 Perceptions regarding historical competences in trainee geography and history teachers
  • Chapter 9 The acquisition of historical competences in Spain: Perceptions of primary and secondary education teachers
  • Chapter 10 Social representations and teaching of cross-cutting topics for history and geography teachers in training: Gender and climate change
  • Chapter 11 Socially acute questions and critical citizenship in trainee geography and history teachers: From theory to classroom observation
  • Chapter 12 Learning to teach history in secondary education: Preservice teachers’ attitudes when faced with emotional and controversial issues
  • Chapter 13 What can be learned from decontextualised heritage?
  • Part III Heritage and ICT in the training of geography and history teachers
  • Chapter 14 Heritage education in teacher education and training
  • Chapter 15 Cliffs with memory: Historical and social teacher training via climatic and environmental transformations
  • Chapter 16 Mobile learning methodology: Analysis of the use of mobile devices in teaching
  • Chapter 17 Developing social and civic competence via apps: The role of historical memory in the initial teacher training
  • Chapter 18 Motivation strategies for gamified flipped classrooms in Social Sciences education

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Fredrik Alvén

University of Malmö

Benito Arias

University of Valladolid (Spain)

Victor Arias

University of Salamanca (Spain)

José A. Armas Castro

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Elvira Asensi

University of Valencia (Spain)

Inmaculada Aznar-Díaz

University of Granada (Spain)

María-Pilar Cáceres-Reche

University of Granada (Spain)

María de la Encarnación Cambil

University of Granada (Spain)

José María Campillo Ferrer

University of Murcia (Spain)

Janire Castrillo

University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Belén Castro-Fernández

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Álvaro Chaparro Sáiz

University of Almería (Spain)

Sérgio Claudino

University of Lisbon (Portugal)

Juan Carlos Colomer

University of Valencia (Spain)

Manuela Costa-Casais

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Ramón Cózar-Gutiérrez

University of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)

Jean-Philippe Croteau

Sichuan University (China)

Ander Delgado

University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Moisés Domingos

Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil)

Andrés Domínguez-Almansa

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

María del Mar Felices de la Fuente

University of Almeria (Spain)

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Olaia Fontal Merillas

University of Valladolid (Spain)

Carlos Fuertes

University of Valencia (Spain)

Carlos Fuster

University of Valencia (Spain)

Silvia García-Ceballos

University of Zaragoza (Spain)

Iratxe Gillate

University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Cosme J. Gómez-Carrasco

University of Murcia (Spain)

Francisco-Javier Hinojo-Lucena

University of Granada (Spain)

Alex Ibañez-Etxeberria

University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Juan Antonio Inarejos Muñoz

University of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)

Esther Jiménez

Complutense University of Madrid (Spain)

Guadalupe Jiménez-Esquinas

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Stéphane Lévesque

University of Ottawa (Canada)

Ramón López-Facal

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Ursula Luna

University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Cristina María Maia

Polytechnic Institute of Porto (Portugal)

Luis Alberto Marques Alves

Polytechnic Institute of Porto (Portugal)

Jorge Conde Miguélez

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Pedro Miralles-Martínez

University of Murcia (Spain)

José Monteagudo-Fernández

University of Murcia (Spain)

Antonio J. Morales

University of Valencia (Spain)

Juan Ramón Moreno-Vera

University of Murcia (Spain)

Álvaro-Francisco Morote

University of Valencia (Spain)

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Nancy Palacios Mena

University of Los Andes (Colombia)

David Parra Monserrat

University of Valencia (Spain)

Ma Montserrat Pastor

Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain)

Helena Rausell

University of Valencia (Spain)

Tania Riveiro-Rodríguez

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Jairo Rodríguez-Medina

National University of Distance Education (Spain)

Raimundo A. Rodríguez-Pérez

University of Murica (Spain)

José-María Romero-Rodríguez

University of Granada (Spain)

Bartolomé Rubia Avi

University of Valladolid (Spain)

Jorge Sáiz

University of Valencia (Spain)

Jesús Molina Saorín

University of Murcia (Spain)

Daniel Schugurensky

Arizona State University (USA)

Xosé Manuel Souto González

University of Valencia (Spain)

Francisco Javier Trigueros Cano

University of Murcia (Spain)

Rafael Valls

University of Valencia (Spain)

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Cosme J. Gómez-Carrasco, Pedro Miralles-Martínez, and Ramón López-Facal

Introduction Research challenges regarding trainee geography and history teachers

Knowledge of the opinions, practices and expectations of trainee and practising teachers is necessary in order to be able to improve teacher training and teaching practice. This Handbook addresses the challenges faced by history and geography teachers, who, in several European countries, such as Spain and France, share their initial training and teaching in both subjects. It includes contributions by researchers from eight countries. The majority of them (eleven) are from Spanish universities and have participated in a wide-ranging research project, enjoying the collaboration and participation of researchers from seven other countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Portugal, Sweden and the United States). Rather than being the sum of individual contributions, this work is the fruit of collaboration by a network which incorporates the main Spanish research groups in the teaching of the social sciences: history, geography, heritage and other social sciences (Red 14).

An emerging academic knowledge domain

In recent decades, the initial and ongoing training of teachers has become a key issue (González & Skultety, 2018). Studies carried out in several countries have agreed on the need to update teacher training programmes in order to improve teaching and learning processes in compulsory education (Barnes, Fives, & Dacey, 2017; König & Blömeke, 2012; Korthagen, 2010). The research carried out points towards the need for comparative studies, thereby making it possible to transfer these findings into practical teaching (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; König, Ligtvoet, Klemenz, & Rothland, 2017; Schmidt, Blömeke, & Tatto, 2011).

Researchers in the field of teacher training agree on the fact that it is of prime importance to analyse the knowledge and conceptions of teachers in order to guide initial teacher training programmes (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Fives & Buehl, 2012; Virta, 2002). Their studies highlight research which aims to calibrate the different types of professional knowledge of teachers, placing ←15 | 16→emphasis on the mastery of everyday tasks in the classroom (König & Pflanz, 2016; Oliveira, Lopes, & Spear-Swerling, 2019).

Shulman’s (1989) proposals have been influential in the definition of the categories designed for research in the field of teacher training. Based on his analysis, when evaluating teaching competencies, researchers tend to differentiate between Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and General Pedagogical Knowledge (GPK) (Kleickmann, Richter, Kunter, Elsner, Besser, Krauss, & Baumert, 2012). CK refers to the knowledge of a specific subject and is related with the contents which teachers are obliged to teach. GPK implies the broad principles and strategies of management and organisation within the classroom (Blömeke, Busse, Kaiser, König, & Sühl, 2016). PCK implies the capacity of relating the specific material of the subject with teaching aims (Monte-Sano, 2011). The latter is a type of knowledge which explores the social representations of those learning a specific subject, how the learner understands this knowledge, the methods and resources required for teaching that subject and the selection and organisation of the specific contents in order to make them appropriate to the reality of the classroom (Meschede, Fiebranz, Möller, & Steffensky, 2017).

Several decades ago, studies on the teaching of history underwent a cognitive change, which did not occur at the same time or at the same pace in all countries. Wilschut (2011) has situated the origin of this trend in the 1970s, when Bruner’s theories and Bloom & Krathwohl’s taxonomies of educational objectives began to have a decisive influence on proposals relating to history education. A landmark in this change took place in the United Kingdom in 1972 with the setting up of the History Project 13–16, which later became known as the Schools History Project (SHP). The idea of this project was that pupils should “make” history rather than simply memorising events of the past. This project was the origin of the Concepts of History and Teaching Approaches Project. Thus, a research line was initiated linked to what is known as historical thinking (Martínez-Hita & Gómez, 2018). This approach attempts to provide students with the necessary intellectual tools to be able to analyse the past and relate it with understanding the problems of the present (Chapman, 2011; Counsell, 2011; Lee, 2005; Lee & Ashby, 2000).

In the United States, this line of research has given rise to studies influenced by cognitive psychology and the expert-novice analytical technique (VanSledright, 2011, 2014; Wineburg, 2001). Such research has generated studies in which the use of historical sources and the work of the historian occupy a prime role (Levstik & Barton, 2008; Monte-Sano, De la Paz, & Felton, 2014; Reisman, 2012; Wineburg, Martin, & Monte-Sano, 2013). In Canada, the ←16 | 17→work carried out at the Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness, led by Peter Seixas, stands out. This centre has worked hard to define historical consciousness and historical thinking and to adapt these ideas to the reality of the classroom in a practical way via projects such as the Historical Thinking Project and the Assessment of Historical Thinking (Lévesque, 2008; Seixas & Morton, 2013). In addition to the work of this group in Canada, there has been a significant increase in studies on history education which attempt to combine the two concepts mentioned above (Létourneau, 2014; Zanazanian, 2015). These studies have had a great impact on the academic production of other countries, such as Australia (Parkes & Sharp, 2014) and the Netherlands (Bjorn, Sanne, Itzél, & Theo, 2018; Grever, Peltzer, & Haydn, 2011; Van Boxtel & Van Drie, 2012; Van Boxtel, Grever, & Klein, 2015; Van Drie & Van Boxtel, 2008).

In the Ibero-American sphere, the work by Barca (2005), Cerri and Amézola (2010), Domínguez (2015), Gómez and Miralles (2015, 2016), López-Facal (2014), Mora and Ortiz (2012), Sáiz and López-Facal (2015), and Schmidt (2017) shows how the afore-mentioned Anglo-Saxon proposals have been adapted to research on history education, including contributions influenced by German educational science, which place emphasis on the ethical dimension of history teaching.

This increase in research in the area of history education has, in recent years, led to the publication of many monographs. Among these publications, those by Counsell, Burn and Chapman (2016), Carretero, Berger and Grever (2017) and Metzger and Harris (2018a) stand out for examining key methodological concepts, current research lines, teaching praxis and the uses and objectives of the teaching of history. These reviews agree on the fact that there has been a significant increase in research in this area since the 1990s (Metzger & Harris, 2018b). They show that historical thinking and historical consciousness are two fundamental axes of research in this area in recent decades (Seixas, 2017), and that these studies have primarily focused on the curriculum, textbooks and, to a lesser degree, on interviews, pupils’ perceptions, observation records for the assessment of intervention proposals and case studies (Epstein & Salinas, 2018). In recent years, validated questionnaires have begun to have a greater impact in this field of knowledge, in the same way as other data collection tools and observation scales (De Groot-Reuvekamp, Anje, & Van Boxtel, 2017; De Groot-Reuvekamp, Ros, & Van Boxtel, 2018a, 2018b; Van Straaten, Wilschut, & Oostdam, 2018).

In spite of the increase in research over recent decades, there is still a limited number of studies dealing with the issue of PCK in the teaching of history and other social sciences, such as geography, from a global perspective ←17 | 18→and with a solid empirical basis (Pollock, 2014). Banks & Parker (1990) and Adler (2008) have pointed out that the majority of research on teacher training in the social sciences has been carried out on the basis of specific experiments which cannot easily be generalised. They highlight several classic studies in this area, such as those by Wilson and Wineburg (1993), McDiarmid (1994), Seixas (1998), Fragnoli (2005) and Bain and Mirel (2006), which made it possible to verify the epistemological and methodological conceptions of trainee teachers (Sáiz, Gómez, & López-Facal, 2018). The studies by Korthagen (2010), Lévesque (2014), Monte-Sano (2011) and Westhoff and Polman (2008) have examined in depth the interrelationship between the epistemological conceptions of teachers in relation to the concepts of historical thinking and the objective of the teaching of history (Pollock, 2014). In recent years, the studies carried out in the Netherlands, particularly by Van Boxtel’s group, have made it possible to make progress in robust empirical analyses, both in terms of statistics and in conceptual depth (Stoel, Logtenbergb, Wansink, Huijgend, Van Boxtel, & Van Drie, 2017).

Later, Tuithof et al. (2019) carried out a systematic analysis of the research on Pedagogical Content Knowledge in history education. They highlighted the great number of qualitative studies with small samples and also indicated that a considerable amount of the existing research focuses on disciplinary strategies of history, such as argumentation and the use of primary sources in the classroom (Ledman, 2015; Monte-Sano & Budano, 2013). Only a few studies deal with issues of teaching methodology and, when they do so, they focus on some specific aspect of the subject, such as critical pedagogy in the classroom (Blevins, Magins, & Salinas, 2020).

The majority of the research which evaluates training programmes focuses on the analysis of exercises carried out by teachers, direct observation and perception questionnaires (De Groot-Reuvekamp, Ros, & Van Boxtel, 2018b; Gómez, Monteagudo, Moreno, & Sáinz, 2019). Few are the studies which evaluate the improvement of these teachers’ skills in initial training when they begin their teaching practice in order to verify the effectiveness of the programmed activities. When this has been done, it has been with small samples and with qualitative techniques (Domínguez-Almansa & López Facal, 2017).

It is necessary to approach PCK from a holistic point of view in order to improve the teaching of history and for trainee teachers to abandon the epistemological baggage which conceives of history as a closed set of knowledge. Carrying out research on the training of future teachers may provide a diagnosis of what must be changed and the tools which should be employed. Therefore, it is considered necessary to perform a diagnostic analysis of the opinions and ←18 | 19→perceptions of trainee teachers with the aim of bringing about an improvement in teaching skills in terms of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.

The proposal of this handbook

In the first part of this book, the approaches of research in history and geography teaching are analysed, along with their relationship with teacher training. The first two chapters examine research methods. In the first chapter, Víctor Arias, Benito Arias and Jairo Rodríguez (from the Universities of Valladolid and Salamanca) explore in depth the quantitative approaches of research, both in terms of experimental designs and those which use greater internal controls in the research processes. Measurement and statistics are fundamental for quantitative research, as they constitute the link between the data observed and explanatory theoretical models. The chapter begins with an introduction to research trends in teacher training and a review of the main lines of research in this field. They conclude by describing the main designs in quantitative research in the context of education, which they illustrate with examples.

The second chapter addresses mixed methods. The techniques and procedures of quantitative data analysis have a great presence in high impact journals in education. Researchers in education sciences increasingly assume the complementarity of the paradigms and both conventional models are considered significant and valuable. Working with mixed methods seems to fit well with educational research in history education and in social studies. The research questions posed in the field of geography and history teaching and learning obtain more precise answers via the use of mixed methods, surpassing those obtained with quantitative and qualitative approaches when these are applied separately. Rodríguez-Medina and Rubia-Avi (the University of Valladolid) present the main research designs proposed from the mixed methods approach, along with some recent examples which illustrate their practical application in the field of education and also in geography and history teacher training.

The third chapter deals with narrative analysis in the area of history education and its potentiality. Levésque (the University of Ottawa) and Croteau (the University of Sichuan) highlight the importance of the theories of historical consciousness for the teaching of history, as they focus on the role played by narration in the attempts of contemporary peoples to define and orient themselves in time. History is a narrative act of (re)construction of the past. It uses cognitive means to interpret past realities connecting the dimensions of time (past, present, foreseen future) into coherent histories which create meaning. Far from being an oversimplification of realities, narration is a realisation of ←19 | 20→how we translate knowing how to narrate. The ability to provide meaning to the past is unavoidably related with narrative acts, or what Jürgen Straub calls “narrative competence.”

In the fourth chapter, Fredrik Alvén (the University of Malmö) addresses an issue of great interest for teacher training, namely the difference in the conceptions of historical knowledge according to the sex of the pupils. He contributes the results of a study carried out in the context of the national history test in Sweden between 2013 and 2019. At the beginning of the study period, the national test mainly required methodological skills (source analysis, argumentation, etc.) but, later, factual knowledge was added. According to the results of the test, girls were more successful in the first type of knowledge and boys in the second. The test writers could decide whether they wanted boys or girls to perform better, thus conferring upon them a moral responsibility. What principles could they base themselves upon when writing the test?

The second part of the book brings together contributions on the opinions and perceptions of trainee geography and history teachers. Their knowledge, prejudices and attitudes regarding history, geography and heritage education and the teaching of socially conflictive issues are analysed. Schools are not currently the main sphere in which knowledge is produced, reproduced and socialised. Neither are teachers the only or main agents of its transmission, nor is education a mere accumulation of knowledge. The role and functions of teachers and the concept of education itself are questioned and relativised as the result of social, cultural and technological changes: the omnipresence of social networks and the diversity of the mass media; the immediate access offered by technology and devices; the advancements in knowledge and the vastness of its scope; the modification of the role of the family in its responsibility in children’s education; and the need to educate free and autonomous citizens who are able to fulfil their potential to bring about a democratic, multicultural, changing and diverse society.

These social and cultural changes imply the need to train teachers to diagnose the learning situation of their pupils, to design more appropriate teaching and learning strategies and to intervene in the classroom in the most appropriate way for each situation.

Teachers should be trained to carry out their job in a context of accelerated and unpredictable changes. They need to acquire autonomy and, at the same time, work in collaboration with other colleagues and assume a curricular approach which is open, flexible and adaptable to its environment and a society which is ever more diverse and mixed. They must have rigorous and updated knowledge of the subjects of geography and history and also of innovative ←20 | 21→theories, methodologies and teaching practice. Being a teacher implies a commitment to society and to one’s surroundings.

Chapter 5 presents an Ibero-American perspective, with the contributions of Drs Parra and Souto (the University of Valencia) and Palacios (the University of The Andes). Their research was carried out by way of study reports reflecting the conceptions of 200 trainee teachers studying a primary education degree and a master’s degree in secondary education. Tradition and individual memory, both based on life experiences and personal memories, are remodelled and mixed with the collective memory of school. This research aims to demonstrate that the influence of this phenomenon has created a consensual common sense which hinders change, normalises codes and guarantees the continuity of certain narratives, practices and uses which are not useful for a civic and democratic education. The authors evaluate the degree of influence of school experiences on the participants, the impact of pedagogical and disciplinary education and the effect of a system and curricular framework in which the configuration and reproduction of these representations are produced.

In Chapter 6, Cambil (the University of Granada), Jiménez (the Complutense University of Madrid), Delgado (the University of the Basque Country) and Pastor (the Autonomous University of Madrid) analyse the perceptions of trainee secondary teachers regarding current historiographical trends. Historiography and the teaching of history have not mixed well in spite of the significant influence of the former on the latter. The authors study the perceptions regarding traditional and current historiographical approaches of these future teachers once they have finished their period of teaching practice. The aim is to analyse which historiographical trends currently have greater presence in the teaching and learning of history, how they influence teaching methodology and the focus of activities carried out in the classroom. The difficulties and advantages of their use are also examined, along with the challenge supposed by methodological innovation from current historiographical approaches, such as the history of the present, the history of everyday life, gender perspective, etc., and how the capacity for historical thinking in secondary education can be improved based on these aspects.

In Chapter 7, Colomer, Sáiz and Morales (the University of Valencia) analyse the historical and geographical knowledge and the thinking aptitudes and abilities of training teachers and to what extent they incorporate disciplinary and didactic knowledge. Their study aims to verify whether trainee teachers only acquire these aptitudes in a theoretical way or whether they are capable, or not, of putting them into practice when necessary.

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Chapter 8 deals with the perceptions of trainee geography and history teachers regarding historical competences. For Gómez-Carrasco (University of Murcia), Felices and Chaparro (the University of Almería) and Inarejos (the University of Castilla-La Mancha), the changes which have taken place in our society require new teaching strategies and new objectives to build society in a broad and multicultural world. The data revealed by the questionnaire employed in the research show the unanimous preference for skills of a procedural and methodological nature. A clear preference among women for second-order contents and methodological concepts is also shown.

In Chapter 9, Trigueros, Campillo, Miralles and Molina (the University of Murcia) approach the acquisition of historical skills in Spanish teachers. They analyse the perceptions of teachers on history education with the aim of promoting significant practices, competency-based learning and mutual consciousness and cooperation. They note the lack of agreement among teachers regarding progress which should be made and the necessary fundamental changes in direction. They conclude that both teachers and students should advance towards a form of history education which places specific skills in the foreground. In their opinion, the nucleus of history teaching in the classroom must ensure that the central concepts of historical thinking are put into practice.

Chapter 10 focuses on social representations and the teaching of crosscutting issues to trainee geography and history teachers. Rausell, Morote and Valls (the University of Valencia) and Domingos (the University of Rio Grande do Norte) evaluate the representations of trainee teachers regarding socially relevant cross-cutting issues: questions of gender and environment. Their aim is to evaluate how trainee teachers incorporate these issues into teaching and learning processes. The authors analyse and classify discourse and representations relating to gender identity and environmental issues via initial surveys, self-evaluation surveys and narratives. The results indicate, along the same lines as the study by Armas, Conde, Alves and Maia (Chapter 10), that the prior training received by the students generates significant differences when defining and, consequently, understanding the concept of gender. Greater limitations are identified in the activities which they proposed for their future pupils, in spite of the fact that all of them claimed to have received specific training on this issue.

Fuertes, Asensi and Fuster (the University of Valencia), in collaboration with Claudino (the University of Lisbon), deal, in Chapter 11, with the relationship between the theoretical knowledge of socially relevant issues which university education provides to trainee teachers and the subsequent approach to these ←22 | 23→issues in the trainee teachers’ initial experiences in the geography and history classroom. The authors aim to identify the complex relationship which will bring about changes and continuities in the perceptions and praxis of trainee teachers and identify their difficulties and possibilities, making it possible to promote the education of a critical citizenship and to improve teacher training itself. This is an initial study which will be complemented with data currently being processed in Portugal in order to obtain comparative results.

In Chapter 12, Drs Armas and Conde (the University of Santiago de Compostela), Alves (the University of Porto) and Maia (the Polytechnic Institute of Porto) present a study on the attitudes of trainee secondary education history teachers towards the teaching of sensitive and controversial issues. The results indicate that trainee teachers are, in general, in favour of teachers not expressing their own opinions when debating such topics in class, or expressing, but not imposing, their opinions whilst promoting the manifestation of other opinions. The majority reject the idea of the teacher imposing a single interpretation or excluding burning issues from school debate. In the analysis of the data, the authors consider that the prior training of the trainee teachers and the training programme received have a greater influence on the results than other socio-demographic variables.

In Chapter 13, Drs Castro, López-Facal and Jiménez-Esquinas (the University of Santiago de Compostela) and Schugurensky (Arizona State University) analyse the perceptions of trainee primary education teachers regarding the inclusion of relevant and socially conflictive issues from the perspective of heritage education. The results obtained from a study on a town flooded by the construction of a dam and the trauma brought about by the forced relocation of the population are presented. The data of the learning are evaluated in order to understand the social problems and analyse to what extent trainee primary teachers consider that such issues can contribute towards the construction of a socially committed citizenship. The results reveal that trainee teachers modify their perceptions of how to approach heritage education when research methodology is incorporated into their training process.

The third part of the Handbook brings together two sets of issues; on the one hand the results of incorporating ICT into the training of history and geography teachers and, on the other, the incorporation of heritage education from a different and complementary perspective to that included in the previous chapter (Castro et al.).

In Chapter 14, Fontal (the University of Valladolid) and García-Ceballos (the University of Zaragoza) advocate a proposal for incorporating a heritage education programme for teacher training based on consciousness and the ←23 | 24→connection with its material context. This proposal is based on an exploratory study which reveals fragmented, disjointed and reductionist knowledge among future teachers. The authors propose the definition of skills to be developed in heritage education, which should be oriented towards an integral and humanistic definition of heritage, providing tools and experiential learning for future practice.

Domínguez-Almansa, Costa-Casais and Riveiro (the University of Santiago de Compostela) present, in Chapter 15, the results of a quite unusual experiment in heritage education. They analyse the learning outcomes of 191 trainee teachers based on an experiment grounded in the theory of Place-Based Education. In this experiment, the participants related unique geomorphological formations with the historical changes associated to them. The results and conclusions demonstrate the potentiality of interdisciplinary work.

The final chapters deal with ICT resources in teacher training and in practical teaching. Researchers from the University of Granada, Hinojo-Lucena, Aznar, Cáceres-Reche and Romero, analyse the use of mobile devices in teaching (mobile learning methodology). In Chapter 16, these authors analyse the degree of implementation of mobile learning in several universities in the region of Andalusia (Spain) and determine the reasons why some teachers do not apply this method in their teaching. They conclude that the majority do use this methodology and that those who do not employ this technique allege that they lack sufficient training and also fear that their pupils may be distracted.

Furthermore, in Chapter 17, researchers from the University of the Basque Country, Castrillo, Gillate, Luna and Ibáñez-Etxeberria, deal with the development of social and citizen competence via the use of applications: the role of historical memory in initial teacher training. To do so, they have analysed results deriving from the use of an educational resource designed for the study of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) in the town of Eibar. In the opinion of the authors, the results confirm that this type of resource contributes to increasing motivation by incorporating the direct testimony of those who experienced the tragic events and improving understanding of the past thanks to the use of primary sources. However, they also highlight the importance of the role of the teacher as a mediator when using applications of this kind, which, in general, are not designed to be used in formal education.

Chapter 18 provides information on different motivational strategies for gamified flipped classrooms. Drs Monteagudo, Moreno and Rodríguez-Péres (the University of Murcia) and Cózar (the University of Castilla-La Mancha) reveal the perceptions of students and trainee teachers regarding gamification and the flipped classroom strategy as motivational resources. Flipped ←24 | 25→classroom and video games have occupied an increasingly important position in the teaching of the social sciences and constitute a phenomenon which has come to stay. However, they cannot replace face-to-face teaching or more traditional methods, which help to establish skills such as the habit of reading and knowing how to work in a team. ICT resources do not arise with educational aims, but they are a first-level resource for facilitating the teaching process and providing examples. They can contribute towards an increase in participation among pupils and the construction of their conceptual knowledge, making use of a reward-based assessment system and the use of cooperative working strategies during lessons. However, education must assume the priority of educational objectives relating to values such as tolerance, respect towards others, ethics and the preservation of heritage and the environment.


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Monte-Sano, C. & Budano, C. (2013). Developing and Enacting Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teaching History: An Exploration of Two Novice ←28 | 29→Teachers’ Growth Over Three Years. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 22, 171–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508406.2012.742016

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Victor Arias, Benito Arias, and Jairo Rodríguez-Medina

Chapter 1  Quantitative research in education

Abstract: Taking into account that a research method must answer and adapt to the research question or questions, quantitative research includes both experimental designs and other designs that emphasize the internal control of the research process. The research process begins with the posing of a question or series of questions related to a problem to which the researcher will try to answer by applying the scientific method. Measurement and statistics are fundamental for quantitative research as they constitute the link between observed (empirical) data and explanatory theoretical models. The chapter begins with an introduction on trends in research in teacher training and a review of the main lines of research in this field. In addition, some of the most widespread quantitative approaches applied to the area of education are illustrated with examples of recent research. Finally, the main designs in quantitative research in the educational context are described and also illustrated with examples.

Keywords: Quantitative researchs, Research tools, Methods, Research designs


Starting from the basic premise that the research method must be subject to the research questions and the purpose of the study, it is possible to identify some of the main purposes for the application of the quantitative approach in research in teacher training. These include hypothesis testing, model development, theory testing or the generalization possibilities of the results in various populations. From the quantitative approach, research questions are posed that can and should be studied empirically on the basis of verified facts linked to relevant theories. In addition, methods are used that allow rigorous observation of these facts and that can be replicated by other researchers.

The research process begins with a question or series of questions that are usually posed with the intention of solving a research problem. In the recent history of teacher education research, research questions have typically been derived from practice. In this sense, one of the purposes of research on teacher training has been to identify effective interventions that could be ←35 | 36→generalized in various contexts (Phelan, 2011). Despite having received much criticism, the quantitative approach has been the dominant perspective in teacher education research for years (Popkewitz, Tabachnick, & Zeichner, 1979; Zeichner, 1999). Although it is true that both the themes and the methodological approaches have been modified over the years, at present, an important current of quantitative approach continues to persist in research on teacher training.

Although each approach has strengths and weaknesses, the key issue is to develop a research process that addresses the wide variety of possible questions about teacher education. As Zeichner (2009) points out, in general terms, a multidisciplinary and multi-methodological approach is necessary to respond to this diversity and complexity. However, the specific questions and problems require different research approaches and specific training in each of them. In this chapter, first, the main current lines of research in teacher training are identified that are approached from a quantitative approach, then the methodology and characteristics of the research designs applied in these works are analyzed.

Trends in teacher training research

Research on teacher training is “an emerging, complex and multifaceted field” (Cochran-Smith et al., 2016, p. 439), which has reached a priority place in educational research. In the past five years, since 2015, it has become a central topic in education research (Huang et al., 2020). Cochran-Smith and Villegas (2015) and Cochran-Smith, Villegas, Abrams et al. (2015) propose the presence of three main trends in research in teacher training, of a political-ideological, intellectual and demographic nature, which derive and converge in what they have called research programs in teacher training. In their review of more than 1500 empirical works, Cochran-Smith and Villegas (2015) identify three programs: (a) research on the responsibility, efficacy and policies of teacher preparation; (b) research on teacher preparation for the knowledge society; and (c) research on teacher training in equality and diversity; would make up the bulk of research in this area.

The works of the first research program are related to the preparation of teachers, the effectiveness and the impact of educational policies. Cochran-Smith and Villegas (2015) identify four groups of studies in this program: (a) policies regarding the professional certification of teachers; (b) institutional responses to policies and analysis of trends and discourses; (c) testing and evaluation of teacher or training program candidates and new evaluation tools; ←36 | 37→and (d) program evaluation studies. Regarding the second research program, the studies are oriented to the analysis of the training of future teachers. In this program, Cochran-Smith, Villegas, Abrams et al. (2015) identify six subgroups: (a) teacher training in specific subjects; (b) the influence of work in the classroom for learning the profession; (c) the influence of practice on learning the profession; (d) studies that analyze the contents, structures, and pedagogical models of the various teacher training programs; (e) studies that analyze the characteristics and work of teacher educators; and (f) studies focused on the role of teacher education according “to the assumption that learning to teach is a process that begins before formal teacher preparation and continues beyond it” (Cochran-Smith & Villegas, 2015, p. 66). Regarding the last program, on teacher training in equality and diversity, Cochran-Smith et al. (2016) differentiate four groups of work with their respective lines of research: (a) studies that analyze the influence and opportunities offered by training and internships to future teachers to teach in a context of diversity; (b) strategies to attract and train a diverse teaching force; (c) analysis of the contents, structures and pedagogical models to prepare future teachers to develop their work in contexts of diversity; and (d) analysis of the learning and experience of teacher educators with diversity.

Considering this classification, although it is possible to find examples of the application of the quantitative approach in any of the programs and their subgroups, according to Cochran-Smith et al. (2016), this approach is applied more frequently in the subgroup oriented to the analysis of professional certification policies and especially in the subgroups of studies oriented to analyze the tests and evaluation of candidates for teachers or training programs and new tools for the evaluation of programs. Many of these studies address questions about the validity of tests for selecting teachers or evaluating teacher performance and rely on large-sample data sources and advanced analytical techniques. Therefore, we can place the methodology, designs and analysis techniques presented in this chapter within the groups and lines of research proposed by Cochran-Smith et al. (2016) in this program. Throughout the chapter, an attempt will be made to locate each of the examples in the subgroup and research line corresponding to classification, taking into account that sometimes the boundaries between groups can be fuzzy and may overlap. For example, Ruales, Agirdag and Van Petegem (2020) designed an instrument to evaluate the multicultural sensitivity of teachers in training, this work, therefore, would fit both the line of research related to the development and validation of tests and evaluation tools as in that related to the experience of future teachers in diverse environments.

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Research process

As noted above, the method, techniques and tools for data collection and analysis must be at the service of the research question or questions, so it seems appropriate to first clarify the approach and purposes of the quantitative approach in research in teacher training. In this way, it is possible to identify different related research lines, demarcated by the research questions posed. These types of studies generally address questions about the validity and reliability of the tests for teacher selection (Klassen, Kim, Rushby, & Bardach, 2020), the evaluation of their performance (Gitomer, Martínez, Battey, & Hyland, 2019; Krammer, Pflanzl, & Mayr, 2019), or the correlation between the scores in the selection tests and the performance of the teachers, among others. The focus of interest is on the development, application and evaluation of assessment instruments for training programs and the personal and professional characteristics of future teachers (beliefs, attitudes, self-efficacy, skills) (Voet & De Wever, 2019). The questions posed in these works are, in general, related to the analysis of the psychometric properties of the measurement instruments (reliability, convergent, discriminant, predictive validity, factorial structure, etc.).

Specifically, in the field of research in historical education, of the 10 works identified by Epstein and Salinas (2018) in their review of the literature, two of them evaluate the beliefs of teachers regarding historical knowledge and the teaching strategies used (Fogo, 2014; Hicks, Doolittle, & Lee, 2004). Other works in this same area are oriented to the design, development and application of evaluation instruments of teacher training programs or to evaluate the impact of different teaching strategies in teacher training programs (Gómez-Carrasco, Monteagudo-Fernández, Moreno-Vera, & Sainz-Gómez, 2020). Miralles-Martínez, Gómez-Carrasco, Arias, and Fontal-Merillas (2019) analyze the relationship between the perception of the use of digital resources and the methodological and epistemological conceptions of teachers in training.

The approach and formulation of the research questions constitute the basis on which the research will be based. In general terms, from a quantitative approach, research questions tend to be transformed into hypotheses that guide the research work and its design. In this sense, the literature review is a crucial step that will make it possible to outline the hypotheses and locate the research within the field of study. Once the literature has been reviewed, it is convenient to identify the specific objectives of the research and the variables that will be analyzed. The purposes of this first phase of the process are to delimit the problem precisely and obtain sufficient information to make the appropriate ←38 | 39→decisions regarding the design. In addition, during this phase, both the objectives and the data collection strategy will be defined.

The selection of instruments for data collection is not an arbitrary question but depends again on the purpose, objectives and research questions. Among the main data collection techniques used from the quantitative approach in research in teacher training are questionnaires, objective tests and tests, scales, systematic observation or interviews.

Research methodology and designs

Design is understood as the structured plan that facilitates the chain of decision-making that must be carried out throughout the study, and which essentially concern the selection and assignment of participants to groups, control of extraneous variables, and the collection, management and analysis of data (Arnau, Anguera, & Gómez, 1990). The objectives of the design, therefore, are aimed at maximizing the rigor of the research, optimizing the resources and effort invested in the research, facilitating the replicability of the study and controlling the variance. The quality of the research design in the quantitative approach will be determined by its internal validity or capacity to control extraneous variables that could affect the results and its external validity or design capacity to generalize the results to other contexts.

Research designs

Research designs from a quantitative approach can be experimental, quasiexperimental, correlational or descriptive. Experimental designs are one of the most powerful research methods and allow establishing causal relationships between variables (Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002). In experimental designs, participants are randomly assigned to the experimental (participating in the intervention) and control (not participating in the intervention) group. This allows comparison between groups to determine whether the intervention was effective because the differences in outcomes can be attributed to the treatment and not to other possible factors. It is therefore essential to rule out possible alternative explanations for the observed result. The distinguishing feature of experimental designs is the manipulation of the independent variable. Independent variables that are frequently manipulated in educational research include training programs, tasks, strategies, resources, or materials used in training. The dependent variables that are analyzed are usually related to performance, motivation, attitudes, beliefs or perception.

←39 | 40→ However, they are difficult to apply in educational and social contexts where participants are already part of groups (Berliner, 2002). As an alternative, the researcher can apply quasi-experimental designs. In recent years, there has been an increase in the application of quasi-experimental research designs in educational research (Gopalan, Rosinger, & Ahn, 2020). These research designs resemble the experimental ones to the extent that one group participates in the intervention program and another group does not.

Depending on the control of threats to internal validity, it is possible to distinguish between pre-experimental, experimental and quasi-experimental designs. Pre-experimental designs do not allow to establish causal relationships. The experimental designs are characterized by using randomization in the selection of the participants and in the assignment of these to the experimental and control groups. Quasi-experimental designs lack the feature of random selection and allocation of participants but employ other strategies to try to control for the effect of extraneous variables.

Pre-experimental designs

Pre-experimental designs provide little or no control for extraneous variables. Despite this, although these designs are not recommended, they are used with some frequency in research on teacher training. In these types of designs, participants undergo a pre-evaluation, are exposed to an intervention, and are evaluated again after the intervention. However, studies using this design do not provide sufficient evidence on the causal relationship between the dependent and independent variables and may be subject to a number of threats to internal validity such as history, maturation, test effects, and the regression effect to the mean (Marsden & Torgerson, 2012).

Pretest-posttest design with only one group

The single group pretest-posttest design usually takes place in three phases: (1) administering a pretest that measures the dependent variable; (2) participation in the intervention of the experimental group; and (3) evaluation of the dependent variable by applying a posttest. Differences are analyzed by comparing the pretest and posttest scores.

Two strange variables that are not controlled in this design are history and maturation. All the events that occur between the pretest and the posttest (not controlled by the researcher), regardless of the intervention, could affect learning. Without a control group to allow comparison, the results obtained using these types of single-group designs cannot be exclusively attributed to the ←40 | 41→intervention. However, this type of design can be useful for exploring hypotheses and suggesting further research.

Through this design, Lee, Tice, Collins, Brown, and Smith, (2012), investigated the change in the perception of their preparation of future teachers after participation in teaching practices. 130 teacher candidates participated who responded to a questionnaire before and after doing the practices. The results indicated a significant increase in the perception of their preparation in five categories: (a) knowledge of pedagogical content, (b) planning and preparation for teaching, (c) classroom management, (d) promotion of family participation, and (e) professionalism.

Similarly, Yazici and Yildirim (2017), investigate the perceived self-efficacy of history teachers in training and the effect of a pedagogical training program on this perception. Using a single-group pre-experimental pre-post-test design, they analyzed the perception of self-efficacy of 178 history teachers in training. The results indicated that the pedagogical training did not make a significant difference in the perceived self-efficacy of the history teachers in training, except in the classroom management subscale, in which the self-efficacy scores of the history teachers in training decreased after completion of pedagogical training.

Posttest design with non-equivalent control group

In the posttest only design with a non-equivalent control group, the group comparison is applied to two pre-established groups, of which only one is exposed to the intervention. Although this design uses two groups for comparison, the participants are not randomly assigned to the groups and no pretest measurements are taken. Both groups are assumed to be comparable before the start of the intervention. To assess the effect of the intervention, the scores of both groups are compared.

Hsieh, Lin, Liu, and Tsai (2019) apply this design to analyze the effect of peer training on the practice of science teachers and on the scientific competencies of their students. 132 students and four teachers participated and were assigned to the control and experimental groups. The results showed that the students in the experimental group had “more positive perceptions of their teachers’ teaching practice than those in the comparison group” (Hsieh et al., 2019, p. 1). In addition, students in the experimental group classes outperformed their peers in the control group in their score in scientific competencies. The results indicate that the peer training model can improve the teaching practice of science teachers and the scientific competencies of their students.

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Quasi-experimental designs

As noted above, in educational research, it is often not possible to select and assign participants to groups at random. In quasi-experimental designs, random assignment to treatment groups does not occur so participants are not randomly selected or assigned to groups. To compensate for this lack, some control techniques have been developed and proposed, such as measures before and after the application of the intervention or program, or the inclusion of multiple control groups. Two types of quasi-experimental designs are usually differentiated, the first one is characterized by the presence of a measure prior to the intervention (pre-test) and another after it (post-test) and the second by the presence of multiple measures. before and after the intervention.

Pretest-posttest design with non-equivalent control group

This is one of the most used designs, the experimental group receives the intervention or participates in a program while the control group does not. Both groups are evaluated with the same measuring instrument at two moments, before and after the intervention. By not using a rule of random assignment of participants to groups, it is not possible to know if the groups are equivalent before starting the investigation, but by means of the pretest it is possible to verify this equivalence. If no significant differences are found in the pretest, selection bias can be ruled out. If differences are found between groups, it is possible to apply statistical procedures to adjust the final results once these initial differences have been considered. Since the data are collected simultaneously in both groups, the potential problems of maturation, instrumentation, preliminary testing, history and regression should be controlled.

This design has been used by Saini and Abraham (2019) to evaluate the effect of a teacher training program based on Facebook on the performance and involvement of teachers in training. The results showed a significant improvement in the performance and levels of commitment of the teachers in training of the experimental group, in which the formative approach based on Facebook was applied, compared to those of the control group in which a conventional formative approach was applied. For their part, Huijgen, Holthuis, van Boxtel, van De Grift, and Suhre (2019), evaluate the effectiveness of a didactic unit related to the cold war on the capacity of students for historical contextualization (the ability to place facts in its historical context) also by means of a quasi-experimental design with a non-equivalent control group. In this case, they use an evaluation instrument built on the basis of open questions whose answers are coded by two independent observers. The results showed that the ←42 | 43→students in the experimental group gave fewer responses supported by presenteeism and used greater historical contextualization compared to the students in the control group.

The analysis of the data obtained through this type of design is complex since it requires adjusting for the lack of equivalence between the groups. The options used usually go through models of analysis of variance (ANOVA), or models of covariance (ANCOVA) in the scores obtained in the pretest. In the first case (ANOVA), it is convenient to carry out the procedure in two stages (Reichardt, 1979), first on the pretest scores and only if no significant differences are found, apply it to the posttest scores. In the second case (ANCOVA), baseline scores are included as a covariate to try to adjust for baseline differences between experimental and control groups. Saini and Abraham (2019) use ANCOVA to control the effect of knowledge and the involvement of teachers in training in the pretest, so that these scores were considered covariates in the data analysis. Subsequently, they use the multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA), an extension of ANCOVA, which allows two or more dependent variables to be included in the same analysis.

Interrupted time series designs

Time series designs involve the periodic measurement of a variable or series of variables in a group and participation in an intervention program. So the dependent variable is measured chronologically on successive occasions, the intervention is introduced, and measurements of the variable are made again. The objective is to evaluate the effect of the intervention by observing the change or stability of the level and trend of the data. Several modalities of time series designs can be differentiated, the simple design of time series of a single group can be understood as a pre-experimental pretest-posttest design with only one improved group. The greatest weakness of this design is its inability to control the history; it cannot be ruled out that other events or circumstances other than the intervention may have influenced the observed change.

Another modality, which represents an improvement over the previous design, is the design of time series with a non-equivalent control group. In this case, a control group is incorporated that will be evaluated at the same time as the experimental group but is not subjected to the intervention. This design allows greater control over extraneous variables that may affect its internal validity than the simple single-group design. However, this type of design is used infrequently in teacher education research due to the large amount of time and data required.

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Markowitz (2018) uses a time series design to estimate the association between the implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulation in the USA and the involvement of students in school. Their results reveal that some of the features of the implementation of NCLB may have had unintended consequences for student engagement with the school. The level and trend changes suggest that student engagement with the school increased slightly during the first years of implementation but decreased over time.

The analysis of the data obtained through these designs can be carried out both visually and statistically. Visual analysis requires the graphical representation of the data and its subsequent analysis regarding the possible change in the level and trend of the data, as well as the immediacy or delay in the appearance of the effect. The statistical analysis must take into consideration that the data obtained through this design are not independent. This violation of the independence assumption requires the use of statistical techniques that allow controlling autocorrelation, such as time series analysis. In the cases in which there is no autocorrelation, it is possible to apply the classical linear model. In those cases in which autocorrelation is present, it is possible to transform the scores in a first stage of the analysis to eliminate the autocorrelation and apply a regression analysis on the transformed scores.

Experimental designs

The essential component of experimental designs is that participants are randomly assigned to treatment groups. Randomization is a powerful technique for controlling threats to internal validity. The experimental designs can be classified according to various criteria: the number of independent variables, the degree of manipulation of the variables, the temporal sequence in the measurement of the variables, the level of control of the experimental situation, level of control of the threats to the internal validity, the representativeness of the variables or the representativeness of the sample (Nesselroade & Cattell, 1988). Considering the number of independent variables, it is possible to differentiate between single-variable or unifactorial designs and factorial designs. Factorial designs combine the effect of several independent variables of which at least one is manipulated.

Control group with pretest and posttest

It is the basic model, it includes a pre-test and a post-test, in which both the experimental group and the control group participate. The purpose of the pretest is to ensure that the two groups are comparable, while the posttest allows ←44 | 45→us to check the effect of the intervention. The control group allows researchers to verify whether the observed changes are a consequence of the treatment or whether other external variables may have affected the results. Strange variables related to time are minimized since both the experimental and control groups perform the tests simultaneously. Initial randomization ensures statistical equivalence between groups before the intervention.

Barr et al. (2015) apply this design to study the effect of a training program, aimed at active secondary education history teachers, with the purpose of improving the perception of self-efficacy, involvement and satisfaction of teachers on the one hand, and on the other. another, to develop skills for citizenship and for historical thinking in students. 84 schools participated that were randomly assigned to the control and experimental groups. Various measurements were made for each of the dependent variables studied before and after the intervention. The results revealed positive effects in the eight areas of the teachers’ perception of self-efficacy and in two of the four professional involvement results. Likewise, the students in the experimental group outperformed the students in the control group in their perception of the classroom climate, tolerance for the rights of those who have beliefs that are contrary to their own, and the civic selfefficacy of the students. Regarding the historical understanding of the students, the participation of the teachers in the training program improved the historical thinking skills of the students. These results provide evidence that “an approach that integrates intellectual rigor, engaged academic discussion, and ethical reflection processes to learn history – and then connect that history with current social and civic concerns, commitments, and participation - is effective for foster the fundamental skills of historical thinking that students can apply to understand new content” (Barr et al., 2015, p. 35).

Whitford and Emerson (2019) use this design to analyze the efficacy of a brief intervention for the development of empathy with the aim of reducing unconscious bias and racial and cultural stereotypes of female teachers in training. The selection and assignment of the participants to the control and experimental groups was carried out randomly. All of them answered the implicit association test before and after the intervention. The results showed a significant reduction in unconscious bias in the experimental group compared to the control group after having participated in the intervention.

Repeated measures designs

In these designs, the participants of the experimental groups are evaluated in two or more experimental conditions. One of the advantages of repeated ←45 | 46→measures designs is that they require fewer participants, and also allow you to control for individual differences. Randomization allows controlling for threats to internal validity related to participant characteristics, maturation, and statistical regression.

As in the interrupted time series designs, in the analysis of data obtained through repeated measures designs it is necessary to take into account the violation of the assumption of independence of the observations. The three main approaches to analyzing this type of data are univariate, multivariate, and mixed. If the scores are normally distributed, the repeated measures analysis of variance models allow studying the effect of the factors when at least one of them is an within-subjects factor. However, when the sphericity assumption (equality of variances of differences between pairs of repeated measures) is violated, it is possible to apply the multivariate analysis of variance (O’Brien & Kaiser, 1985). Lastly, the mixed approach allows to reproduce the results of both the univariate and multivariate approaches and model the covariance structures, thus offering greater versatility and flexibility (Kowalchuk, Keselman, Algina, & Wolfinger, 2004).

Peebles and Mendaglio (2014) use this design to analyze the impact of a training course in inclusive education and a practical experience on the perception of self-efficacy of teachers in training to work in inclusive settings. One hundred forty one Canadian trainees participated and attended a mandatory ten-week inclusion course and a three-week post-course practical experience. The researchers collected data on the perception of self-efficacy of the preservice teachers before participating in the course, after participating in the course, and after practical experience. The results of the analysis of variance of repeated measures indicated that both the course and the practical experience produced a significant increase in the perception of self-efficacy in the teachers in training.

Factorial designs When the intention is to analyze the effect of two or more independent variables that influence the dependent variable, we are faced with factorial designs. Each independent variable is analyzed at each of its levels. These designs can present different levels of complexity depending on the number of independent variables (factors) and the number of levels of each variable. The simplest factorial design (2 × 2), has two factors with two levels each, and therefore allows to define four groups. These designs can be more complex, for example, in a 3 × 3 × 4 factorial design, there are three independent variables with three, three and four levels, respectively, resulting in 36 experimental groups. Participants are randomly assigned to groups that cover all possible combinations of levels of each independent variable, thus enabling the ←46 | 47→analysis of the effect of both each variable by itself (main effects) and its combination (interaction effects). However, when too many factors are analyzed simultaneously, statistical analysis becomes increasingly complex.

Wenz and Hoenig (2020) analyze discrimination based on ethnicity and social class by primary school teachers in Germany. To do this, they asked 237 randomly selected elementary school teachers to evaluate fourth-grade students’ written tests. They applied a 2 × 2 × 3 factorial design, in which they take into account the quality of the text (high or low); sex (girl or boy); and the ethnic and socioeconomic origin (German upper class, German middle class, immigrant) inferred by the teachers based on the fictitious names assigned to the authors of the written test. Although they found no evidence of discrimination in the scores given to the jobs, the expectations of teachers about the future performance of children suggest a discriminatory bias based on ethnicity and social class. The effect is conditional on the quality of the test evaluated (interaction effects) and was only observed when the text evaluated was of high quality.


Research designs are indispensable in educational research in general and in teacher education research in particular because they help to plan the process and to control unwanted extraneous variables. As Zientek, Capraro and Capraro (2008) warn, some of the deficiencies detected in the research reports on teacher training with a quantitative approach are related to the lack of (a) effect sizes, (b) confidence intervals and (c) reliability and validity coefficients. The quantitative approach can contribute to improving the design of teacher training programs since, as Cochran-Smith and Zeichner (2009) have pointed out, “There are few quantitative studies examining the impact of methods course or field experiences on immediate practice and virtually none that examine impact on long practice over time or on students’ learning once the novice teachers are in charge of their own classrooms” (p. 16).

Zeichner (2009) highlights eleven aspects related to the design and research methodology aimed at strengthening research in teacher training. Their recommendations include the need to describe in detail the data collection and analysis methods as well as the contexts in which the research is carried out. It also points out that greater attention must be paid to the validity and reliability of the data collection instruments used, since a large part of the research reports on teacher training do not provide this information. This lack of information affects the validity of the inferences and also makes it difficult to replicate the research work. Furthermore, it is necessary to relate empirical data to ←47 | 48→relevant theoretical frameworks that explain the research results and to develop more reliable data collection instruments.

This chapter has reviewed some of the main concepts related to the application of research designs that are used in the field of teacher training. By way of conclusion, it is advisable for researchers to use validated measurement instruments and robust designs whenever possible, however, as Zeichner (2009) points out, “given the complexity of research in teacher training, no single methodological approach can provide everything you need to understand how and why teacher education influences educational outcomes” (p. 743).


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Jairo Rodríguez Medina and Bartolomé Rubia Avi

Chapter 2  Mixed methods in education research

Abstract: Over the last three decades, the mixed methods approach has become the third methodological movement in educational research. While quantitative data analysis techniques and procedures seem to occupy an ever more relevant position in educational research, researchers in educational sciences are increasingly moving towards accepting the complementarity of paradigms, with both conventional models being considered important and valuable. This may be due to the fact that research questions raised in the field of education obtain more precise answers through mixed methods, and their advantages outweigh those of quantitative and qualitative approaches when each is applied separately. This chapter presents the main research designs proposed from the mixed methods approach together with some recent examples illustrating their practical application in the field of education. In addition, the main research sources and evidences of validity are discussed. Ultimately, the claim is made that mixed methods are necessary to ensure the interpretative rigor of the data and the quality of the design. This is further illustrated with some examples.

Keywords: Mixed methods, Qualitizing, Quantitizing, Research design, Validity


Mixed-method research requires the collection, analysis and integration of quantitative and qualitative data (Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989) and has been defined as a research approach in which “(…) the researcher collects and analyzes data, integrates findings and draws inferences using qualitative and quantitative approaches or methods in a single study or research programme” (Tashakkori & Creswell, 2007, p. 4). This approach emerges as an alternative to the qualitative-quantitative confrontation and allows capturing the complexity of the teaching-learning process and the contexts in which it takes place. In the last 20 years there has been an important growth in research with mixed methods, so that this approach has come to be called the third methodological movement (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009), or the third research paradigm (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Even so, in the words of Maxwell (2015), ”a substantial amount of current research combining the qualitative and the quantitative in terms of methods and data, in both the natural and social sciences, is ←53 | 54→ignored, despite its potential relevance to the field of mixed-method research” (p. 13).

Several recent systematic reviews coincide in pointing out the increase in scientific production with mixed methods that are being applied in almost all areas of research, but especially in the fields of health, education, psychology and management. In the last 20 years, a growing group of education researchers have adopted this approach, so that between 2000 and 2008 the number of studies using mixed methods in education research represented approximately 25 % of all publications on mixed methods (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). The studies by López-Fernández and Molina-Azorín (2011) and Ross and Onwuegbuzie (2010) have analyzed the prevalence of publications featuring mixed methods in education journals, noting a gradual increase in recent years, especially in the Journal of Mixed Methods Research. Similarly, in historical education research, mixed methods are becoming increasingly relevant in a general context of growth in empirical research in this area (Epstein & Salinas, 2018) and, more specifically, in teacher training (De La Paz, Malkus, Monte Sano, & Montanaro, 2011; Marcus, Levine, & Grenier, 2012).

These results show that mixed methods are of significant value in solving problems in different educational contexts (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). The main premise is that by combining and integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches, it is possible to achieve a better understanding and a deeper insight into research problems than by using either approach alone. As Greene (2007) points out, one approach alone will lead to a partial understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. Research with mixed methods, therefore, allows for a wider and more complete, as well as complementary, understanding of educational phenomena and can provide explanations that include different perspectives, increasing the usefulness of the results obtained. Furthermore, mixed methods do not simply combine types of data, but they encompass as well different ways of understanding the world, reality and access to knowledge, so as to achieve, as proposed by Greene (2007), the construction of a mental model of understanding the phenomenon being researched.

Ontological, epistemological and axiological points of view

The foundations of mixed methods come from multiple sources and cover different views of the world (worldview), reality (ontology), knowledge (epistemology) and values (axiology). These views are combined in different paradigms. Mertens (2015) suggests that paradigms are philosophical frameworks on ethics, reality, knowledge and research. Paradigms, therefore, represent the ←54 | 55→conceptual framework for understanding reality and define how we research social phenomena and how we validate that knowledge. For Kuhn (1962), a paradigm is defined as ”the set of practices that define a scientific discipline in a particular period of time” (p. 175). A paradigm, therefore, represents the values and beliefs of a group.

Creswell and Plano Clark (2017) and Mertens (2015) agree on identifying four main paradigms, four models or ways of understanding reality: positivist and post-positivist; constructivist; transformative; and pragmatic. While positivism and postpositivism are associated with the quantitative approach, constructivism is usually associated with the qualitative approach. The transformative paradigm focuses on social justice and social transformation supported by qualitative research processes. Both the philosophical pragmatism advocated by William James, Herbert and Dewey, and the neopragmatism advanced in the 1960s by authors such as Kaplan and Cornel West (Mertens, 2010), are associated with the use of multiple data collection methods to solve research problems. Post-positivist and constructivist paradigms are often included in methodology manuals, while the more recent transformative paradigm has been gaining momentum in recent years (Creswell, 2009). The pragmatic paradigm provides a philosophical framework for advocates of mixed-method research (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009).

For more than half of the 20th century, the dominant paradigms in educational research were positivism and postpositivism. They argue that objectivity, based on statistical test results, should be the standard in research; therefore, the researcher should remain neutral to avoid biases that distort the results. Positivism borrows methods from the experimental sciences. It recognizes that in education research, and social science research in general, the assumptions required for the rigorous application of these methods are difficult to achieve, and so develops quasi-experimental methods.

One of the basic principles of constructivism is the idea that reality is socially constructed (Brunner, 1960; Vygostky, 1981). All knowledge, in this sense, is developed within a pre-existing social environment, which is constantly being interpreted and reinterpreted. One of the basic premises of the constructivist paradigm is that knowledge is socially constructed and that researchers should try to understand reality taking into account the context and the point of view of the participants in the research. At the same time, it states that the objects of analysis are also based on linguistic representations of the subjects’ thought.

Qualitative methods such as interviews, observation, content analysis, or grounded theory are the most common in this paradigm. Research can only be conducted through interaction between the researcher and the participants ←55 | 56→(Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 2000). This approach is often described as hermeneutic and dialectical, since it is about “obtaining multiple perspectives that produce better interpretations of the meanings that are compared and contrasted through a dialectical exchange that involves the juxtaposition of conflicting ideas, thus forcing a reconsideration of previous positions’” (Mertens, 2015, p. 68). In addition, the perceptions of a various types of people must be sought.

The transformative paradigm, following from the positions of the Frankfurt School (Habermas, 1984), points out the need to put the focus of research on the field of social justice, so that these researchers position themselves, consciously and explicitly, alongside the less powerful, in an effort to achieve social transformation. The transformative paradigm is grounded on a wealth of academic research literature including mixed methods, qualitative, participatory action research, feminist research, critical ethnography, indigenous researchers, disability researchers and researchers from the international development community. Transformative researchers are plural and eclectic in their methodologies, tending to use qualitative methods such as interviews, observations and life stories, but emphasizing the need for greater rigor.

Finally, pragmatism provides a philosophical framework for mixed-method research (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010). Effectiveness is used as a criterion for judging the value of research. The criterion for judging the appropriateness of a method is whether it achieves its purpose. The method should be chosen on the basis of the purpose, questions and goals of the research. For the proponents of this paradigm consider that mixed methods offer a practical solution, or one that is closer to the overall reality regarding the quantitative vs. qualitative trade-off. Pragmatism provides flexibility for researchers to select the method, or combination of methods, that best suits their research questions (Mertens, 2015). From a pragmatic perspective, the research question is more important than the method and so is the worldview with respect to the method. These researchers rely on the criterion of what works, or what best represents the model of interpretation of that reality, so as to determine which method or methods to use in order to answer a particular research question.

The mixed methods research process

Mixed designs

Research design is defined as the plan devised so as to address the problem and attempt to answer the research questions, select the approach and perspective, ←56 | 57→identify the type of data, how they will be collected and who will participate, how the data will be analyzed, interpreted and reported, and the degree of confidence that can be placed in the validity and reliability of each element of the research. In short, it is the plan that facilitates the chain of decision-making that must be carried out throughout the empirical study, always subordinated to the definition of the latter’s objectives and essentially concerned with the collection, processing and analysis of data.

When considering mixed designs and their typologies, there is a wide variety of proposals, but in essence the basic characteristics that define them is the sequencing or the concurrence of the quantitative and qualitative phases (Creswell, 2003, 2014; Hesse-Biber, 2010; Morse, 2010). Therefore, the designs are organized from these two perspectives of analysis, techniques or intentions in the research process. Usually the designs are in turn divided into sequential or concurrent, while their perspective regarding their emphasis on either the qualitative or the quantitative approach is the subject of discussion. Tab. 1 shows some of the main typologies, which rest on criteria like the designs’ main focus and the interfaces across methods, techniques and data. They also address the main priorities that shape the orientation of the several types, as explained at the beginning of the chapter, as well as whether they start from a specific theoretical perspective or not.

Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009) suggest different research designs with mixed methods and propose the coexistence of five typologies: parallel or concurrent, sequential, conversion, multilevel and integrated. In turn, Creswell and Plano Clark (2019) place the designs on a continuum with two poles: fixed designs and emergent designs. Fixed designs would be those in which the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches has been pre-established and planned before starting the research process, while emerging designs would be characterized by the inclusion of a new approach (qualitative or quantitative) after the research process has started. In addition, they propose a framework with three designs that they consider basic: convergent, sequential explanatory and sequential exploratory.

The three basic design models featuring mixed methods are the concurrent or convergent parallel, the sequential explanatory, and the sequential exploratory. These three types of design differ from one other, either in terms of the concurrence or sequencing of methods (i.e., the difference between concurrent and sequential models), or as a result of priority given to the methods employed (the explanatory-sequential approach prioritizes the quantitative part of the study, while the exploratory-sequential approach prioritizes the qualitative part).

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Tab. 1: Examples of classifications of mixed method designs

Parallel mixed designs, also called concurrent designs, are those in which the qualitative and quantitative approaches are implemented simultaneously but independently so that conclusions are based on the results of the analyzes of both types of data. In the notation proposed by Morse (2003) the parallel or concurrent design is denoted by the symbol [+]. Materechera (2018) uses a parallel design to study teachers’ perceptions of educational inclusion by conducting in-depth interviews (qualitative instrument) and applying a questionnaire (quantitative instrument). Her study attempts to address the research questions by integrating the inferences derived from the analysis of the data obtained through both instruments. Using the same type of design, Yücel and Usluel (2016) analyze the participation and interaction of students in an online collaborative learning environment by recording and analyzing the logs (records of interaction on the online platform, quantitative) and carrying out an analysis of the content of the posts generated on the platform (qualitative).

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As pointed out by Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009), although parallel designs have great potential for obtaining meta-inferences (conclusions that integrate qualitative and quantitative results), they are difficult to carry out due to the complexity of simultaneously performing multiple lines of research. In general, they often require the intervention of different teams of researchers, experienced in each of the approaches and in the several techniques of data analysis, as well as in examining the same phenomenon by using two different approaches in parallel. Parallel analysis and subsequent integration can be difficult, especially when the results differ.

Sequential mixed designs are those in which one or the other of the approaches (quantitative and qualitative or vice versa) are executed successively, depending on the initial or emerging approach of the research. Therefore, at least two phases of data collection are required so that the results of the first phase provide the basis for the data collection of the next phase. The final inferences are based on the results of both strands of the study. The second and subsequent phases of the study are developed in order to confirm or refute the inferences of the previous phases or to enlarge the previous results. Finally, the final conclusions are based on the results obtained throughout the various phases. In the notation proposed by Morse (2003) the sequential design is denoted by the symbol [→].

The character of this type of design and its purpose can be either explanatory or exploratory. In the first case, the process begins with a phase of quantitative data collection and analysis followed by a phase of qualitative data collection and analysis, with the intention of explaining or deepening the results of the previous phase. In the second case, the process starts with a qualitative data collection and analysis phase to continue with a quantitative data collection and analysis phase.

Creswell and Plano Clark (2019) consider the sequential explanatory design to be the simplest to implement and highlight some of its advantages. It is an easy design to implement because the researcher carries out the two phases in succession and on each occasion collects only one type of data so that one single researcher can carry it out successfully. In addition, the final report can be drawn up so as to include a quantitative section followed by a qualitative one, which ultimately facilitates the reporting process. However, despite its greater simplicity, this type of design generally requires more time to complete all the phases than concurrent or parallel designs.

Zumbrunn, McKim, Buhs and Hawley (2014) set up an explanatory-sequential design in order to examine how the perception of belonging, academic motivation and engagement can mediate the relationship between contextual academic characteristics and performance. In the first phase of the ←59 | 60→(quantitative) study, two structural equation models are contrasted in relation to the perception of belonging and motivation. After contrasting the goodness of fit of both models, in a second phase (qualitative), they conduct interviews with a sub-sample of students to try to understand how they describe their perception of belonging in relation to classroom experiences.

Lacka and Wong (2019) examine the impact of virtual learning environments and social networks on the academic outcomes of university students through an exploratory sequential design. To do this, they first interview 17 higher education students (qualitative phase) with the aim of identifying categories relating to learning outcomes. In the second phase (quantitative), they design a questionnaire so as to analyze the use of these technologies by university students and their impact on these outcomes. The findings of the qualitative phase informed the quantitative research stage, during which a descriptive analysis was carried out to reveal the consequences of the use of digital technologies on these outcome categories.

Bernhard (2019) applies this design to analyze the epistemological position of Austrian history teachers and their views on history teaching itself. In a first qualitative phase he collects data from 26 Austrian schools through observation of the classes taught and interviews with 50 teachers. The content analysis of both the observations and the interviews allows him to construct a questionnaire that was used in the second phase of his study, which had a quantitative nature. The qualitative phase of the study helped to identify the main problems and define the hypotheses that were tested in the quantitative phase of the study.

Mixed conversion designs are those in which data are transformed: either from qualitative to quantitative (“quantitizing”) or vice versa (“qualitizing”). In these designs, data are collected by using one method and then transformed and analyzed using the other method. In the first case (“quantitizing”), qualitative data are generally converted into quantitative data by counting the occurrences of each of the categories under examination, i.e. the frequencies. A special case of this type of design is that of observational designs, in which the categorical data collected through systematic observation are transformed into quantitative data taking as a reference the order and duration parameters (Anguera, Blanco-Villaseñor, Losada, & Sánchez-Algarra, 2020). This transformation, therefore, results in a more robust type of quantification, which allows sequential analysis of delays, analysis of polar coordinates or detection of time patterns (T-Patterns) that reveal the structure underlying the recorded data.

Escolano-Pérez et al. (2019) employ an observational conversion design to assess the metacognitive skills employed by 5-year-olds in solving a puzzle. To ←60 | 61→do this, they designed an observational instrument which they used to code children’s behavior during the resolution of the proposed task. The transformation of categorical data, obtained through observation and recording, into quantitative data (“quantitizing”) starting from the parameters of order and duration of the behaviors observed led to the detection of temporal patterns, sequential analysis of delays and analysis of polar coordinates. The results revealed differences in metacognitive skills between children who solved the task and those who did not.

Multilevel mixed designs are those in which different types of data (both quantitative and qualitative) are integrated and/or used at different levels of the research (groups, schools, districts, regions). Numerical data can be used at one level (students) and qualitative data can be used at another level (groups). Both types of data can be collected both in parallel and sequentially. Despite the possibilities they offer in the field of education research, as pointed out by Headley and Plano Clark (2020), there is not yet a clear consensus on the implications of this type of design.

Papadimitriou (2010) analyzes quality management in Greek universities at the macro, meso and micro levels. At the macro level he analyzes how the print media addressed the issue quality management in higher education during a particular period. He does so by analyzing the quantitative and qualitative content of publications in the print media during 2005. At the meso level, taking into account the inferences of the macro level, his study carries out a qualitative content analysis of the reports by eight external evaluators and uses a questionnaire to understand how Greek university rectors and vice-rectors had implemented quality management in their universities. At the micro level, the study conducts a survey on the perceptions and concerns of department heads about quality management. Finally, he integrates the results from each level to identify the factors influencing the adoption of quality management in Greek universities.

Fully integrated mixed designs are those in which there is a constant integration of qualitative and quantitative methods at each stage of the process. Therefore, qualitative and quantitative strategies are combined continually: planning and design, data collection, sampling, analysis and inference drawing (Creamer, 2018). This integration across the several stages of the inquiry is the distinctive feature of this type of design.

Love and Wells (2018) use this design to analyze the extent of the relationship between technology and the science education experiences of technology and engineering teachers as well as their teaching strategies. This research began with a content analysis of the curricula that identified behaviors that would ←61 | 62→subsequently be observed in the classroom. This was followed by a questionnaire to which 55 teachers responded. Respondents were classified according to their answers into three categories: novice, intermediate and veteran. The results of the analysis of the questionnaire data guided the selection of eight teachers to carry out the classroom observation in the next phase. Qualitative records were extracted from the observation and quantified, and the correlations between these records and the other instruments were analyzed. Finally, the teachers who had been observed were interviewed to allow the researchers to ask specific questions about teaching strategies with respect to the observed scientific content. The interview responses helped to corroborate and validate the teaching strategies that had been observed.

Data analysis

Mixed analysis involves the application of qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques that can be combined, connected, or integrated into an investigation. This combination, connection or integration of data and techniques is probably one of the most complex phases of mixed-method research (Onwuegbuzie & Combs, 2011). Teddlie and Tashakkori’s (2009) proposal makes it possible to organize mixed analysis strategies in relation to basic research designs. Thus, according to this typology, parallel, sequential, conversion, multilevel and fully integrated analyses can be differentiated.

The first consideration to be made is the justification and purpose of mixed analysis. In this sense, Greene et al. (1989) propose five possible purposes: triangulation, complementarity, development, initiation and expansion. Triangulation refers to the comparison of various data sources, analysis procedures, research methods, or inferences. It requires that data sets (qualitative and quantitative) evaluate the same phenomenon; therefore they must be collected simultaneously and independently. In case the purpose of the study with mixed methods is complementarity, the analysis should be targeted at contrasting the degree to which both data sources (qualitative and quantitative) produce complementary results. Complementarity is usually assessed through parallel mixed designs and analyses. In this case, the results of one type of analysis are interpreted in order to improve, extend, illustrate or clarify the results obtained through the analysis of the other type of data (Greene et al., 1989). Sometimes, analysis of data obtained through one of the approaches (quantitative or qualitative) can contribute to developing the research process through the complementary approach. For example, grouping on the basis of qualitative observations and then comparing these groups with quantitative techniques, or conversely grouping on the basis of the results of quantitative ←62 | 63→data analysis and then deepening the analysis of representatives of these groups through interviews, observation or focus groups (Bae & Lai, 2020). Vangrieken and Kyndt (2020) selected a group of 17 teachers representing extreme cases of individualistic and collaborative attitudes to conduct in-depth interviews based on their responses to several questionnaires to which 3018 participants initially responded.

Initiation involves looking for contradictions or contrasts between the results of the analysis of both types of data. It involves assessing the extent to which the results diverge, which makes it possible to highlight the paradoxes and contradictions that arise when the results are compared. Expansion aims to broaden the scope of the research by selecting the most appropriate analysis techniques for each of the research components.

A second consideration before tackling the mixed analysis concerns the number of data types to be analyzed. Traditionally, data analysis in mixed-method research has consisted in analyzing quantitative data with quantitative techniques and qualitative data with qualitative techniques (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017). Fetters and Freshwater (2015) suggest that the combination of quantitative and qualitative elements affords more than the sum of the individual components (1 + 1 = 3), however, other authors have opted for a deeper integration, trying to eradicate the qualitative vs. quantitative dichotomy, and have proposed the formula “1 + 1 = 1” (Onwuegbuzie, Hitchcock, Natesanc, & Newman, 2018) to represent this integration at the level of data transformation. The process, in this case, would involve the transformation of qualitative data into quantitative data (“quantitizing”) (Escolano-Pérez et al., 2019) or of quantitative data into qualitative data (“qualitizing”) (Taylor & Tashakkori, 1997). This type of data transformation, typical of mixed methods, implies a complete integration of both methodological approaches.

A third consideration prior to data analysis concerns the priority or preponderance of qualitative or quantitative components. If the quantitative component is given greater priority, the analysis is essentially quantitative-dominant. Conversely, if the qualitative analysis component is given higher priority, then the analysis is essentially a mixed qualitative-dominant analysis. The time sequence of the mixed analysis should be another aspect considered before conducting the analysis itself, as it can be carried out in a chronological sequence or in a parallel or concurrent manner. If the two sets of data are analyzed independently, it will be a parallel mixed analysis. Conversely, if there is a defined order for the analyses, it will be a sequential mixed analysis. Finally, it is necessary to consider the phases of analysis to be carried out. Mixed analyses may involve several phases, which will need to be identified and delimited ←63 | 64→beforehand. Onwuegbuzie, and Combs, (2010) and Greene (2007) suggest some of these possible analytical phases: data transformation, reduction, comparison, correlation, graphical representation of data, integration, etc.

After considering the above questions, the researcher is ready to start the analysis of the data. These preliminary considerations should lead to a series of decisions that will allow the selection of the most appropriate analysis strategy or strategies to answer the research questions posed. The following are the main possibilities for analysis according to the research design adopted.

Parallel mixed analysis

In the view of Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009), parallel mixed analysis is probably the most widely used data analysis strategy in mixed-method research. It is generally associated with purposes such as triangulation and complementarity. It involves carrying out both a qualitative and a quantitative analysis of the data, using the strategies, techniques and tools specific to each approach. The results obtained will be linked, combined or integrated in meta-inferences in the final phase. These analyses can lead to convergent or divergent results, but they facilitate a common interpretation.

Mixed conversion analysis

Mixed data conversion analysis occurs either when the qualitative data collected are quantified (“quantitizing”) or when the quantitative data are converted to narrative or other types of qualitative data (“qualitizing”). In conversion analysis there is only one source of data. Quantification allows statistical analyzes to be applied to data sets that were originally categorical in nature. Usually, qualitative categorical data are transformed into frequencies. As mentioned above, special mention should be made of the observational methodology that transforms qualitative data into quantitative data, based not only on the frequency parameter but also on the order and duration parameters, which makes it possible to carry out a wide variety of analyses (Anguera et al., 2020).

Sequential mixed analysis

Sequential mixed analysis occurs when the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data is done in chronological order. As well as differentiating between exploratory and explanatory-sequential designs, it is possible to establish these same differences in the analysis. A third type of mixed-sequential analysis is iterative mixed-sequential analysis, which occurs in sequential studies involving more than two phases.

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The question of validity in mixed designs

As Burke Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2006) point out, due to the complexity arising from the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, mixed research gives rise to what has been called the problem of integration. A better and deeper understanding of the phenomenon under examination is only possible if the results of both approaches are linked or integrated through inferences and meta-inferences. These inferences are conclusions and interpretations made on the basis of the analysis of data obtained in one study (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). They use the term inference to refer to three related concepts: (a) the process of inference, which begins with data collection; (b) the quality of inferences, which encompasses the quantitative concepts of internal validity and statistical conclusion validity and the qualitative concepts of credibility and reliability; and (c) the transferability of inferences, which includes the concepts of generalizability and external validity.

To assess the appropriateness and rigor of inferences, Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009) develop a set of criteria relating to design quality and interpretive rigor. With regard to design quality they propose four criteria: (a) adequacy of design: does the design fit the questions and purpose of the research? (b) Fidelity of the design: was each phase of the design correctly implemented? (c) Internal consistency of the design: are the design phases consistent with the problem, the research questions posed and the sampling? (d) Adequacy of analysis: are the data analysis techniques employed appropriate and adequate to answer the research questions? In terms of interpretive rigor, on the other hand, they pose six criteria: (a) Interpretive consistency: are the conclusions consistent with the results obtained from the data analysis? (b) Theoretical consistency: are the inferences consistent with theoretical approaches and with the empirical results of other work? (c) Interpretive agreement: do other experts support the interpretation of the results (e.g. through peer review)? (d) Interpretive distinction: is it possible to exclude other alternative conclusions that explain the results? (e) Integrative effectiveness: are the inferences drawn from each approach effectively and uniformly integrated into consistent meta-interferences? (f) Interpretative correspondence: do the meta-inferences respond to the initial design approach and purpose?

Another aspect identified by Greene (2007) to support the validity of mixed methods in terms of their quality focuses on the concept of “legitimacy” (Onwuegbuzie, 2003). Thus, attending to the nine types of legitimacy proposed by Onwuegbuzie and Johnson (2006) we can identify aspects that serve as examples to understand the concept and the process to be followed in research with mixed methods:

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1.Integration of the sample, where the sample designs (quantitative and qualitative) produce meta-inferential analyses. Thus, if the selection of the sample or the space where the research is to be carried out is really exemplary, we can have sufficient legitimacy for a study to be valid.

2. Inclusion of internal and external perspectives in a study, where the researcher presents the internal perspective of what is observed and relates it to the perspective from external observation, in order to construct descriptions supported by the dialogue between perspectives.

3. Compensation of the methods in terms of the weaknesses of one towards the other. When we use different methods, they have strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the weaknesses of each method must be compensated by the other in order to achieve a solid global vision.

4. Inferences extracted from the evolution of the research design itself. In many cases this occurs when an erroneous sequencing occurs and has to be changed. Therefore, modification is the best example of legitimacy.

5. The conversion or transformation of data that helps to quantify the qualitative or the reverse (Anguera et al., 2020).

6. The use of research assumptions from different paradigmatic perspectives. The mixture of qualitative and quantitative perspectives from ontology, axiology, methodology and research practice can be used to verify, from different perspectives, the value of research.

7. The commensurability or comparison process, which seeks the existence of a common factor that can be expressed in verifiable terms through the replication of qualitative and quantitative measures/indicators.

8. The methodological soundness of each method used. The legitimacy of the quantitative and qualitative components of the study resulting from the use of mixed quantitative, qualitative and validity types of data, which produce high-quality meta-inferences, is likewise addressed.

9. The political connection within the mix of methods in a given context, a question that can be checked when transferring into the context what has been extracted from it as well as the relationships that have been established with the types of quantitative and qualitative data.

We can say that this construction of legitimacy-related aspects entails a form of mixing and combining data arrived at by using several epistemologies. All in all, it involves a complementary process of comparison, compensation and double perspectives when it comes to analyzing the value of a study.

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Mixed methods enable us to capture the complexity inherent in the teaching-learning processes by incorporating and combining the quantitative and qualitative approaches. Fetters and Moliza-Azorín (2020) defend the need to apply mixed methods in the field of evaluation of educational intervention programmes. However, the successful implementation of mixed designs in education requires knowledge and mastery of quantitative and qualitative research designs, techniques and practices, which is usually time-consuming, and the coordinated and collaborative work of teams of researchers (Ponce & Pagán-Maldonado, 2015).


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Stéphane Lévesque and Jean-Philippe Croteau

Chapter 3  Teaching the narrative competence in history education: Lessons from Canada1

Abstract: Narration is considered a structural feature of historical thinking and learning. However the conceptualization of narrative competence remains vague in history didactics literature. Relying on an empirical study with Canadian students, this chapter discusses how history education needs to prepare teachers to be more conscious of and proactive in providing learners with the ability to construct and deconstruct historical narratives.

Keywords: Narration, Narrative competence, Historical consciousness, Storytelling

Setting the stage

In our most recent book, Beyond History for Historical Consciousness, we claim that theories of historical consciousness are central to history education because they focus on the role that narration plays in contemporary peoples’ attempts to define and orient themselves in time (Reich et al., 2015; Rüsen, 2005; Seixas, 2004). Leading historian Jörn Rüsen (2005) contends that the fundamental form within which historical consciousness realizes its practical function of life orientation is that of the narrative. The purpose of narrative is to transform the past into meaningful history (or histories) by giving a direction, sense and coherence to otherwise disorganized past events. As he putsit, “for more than four decades narrativity has gradually become the most convincing answer to the question for the distinctive nature of history. Historians tell stories, and story-telling follows the rules of narration” (Rüsen, 2005, p. 3). History is thus a narrative act of (re)construction of the past. It uses cognitive means of interpreting past actualities by connecting the dimensions of time (past, present, envisioned future) into coherent, meaning-making stories. Far ←71 | 72→from being an oversimplification of realities, narrative would be a solution to how we translate knowing into telling. From this perspective, our ability to make sense of the past would inevitably be connected to narrative acts, or what Jürgen Straub calls “narrative competence” (Straub, 2005, p. 54).

In recent years, history educators in the United States (U.S.), Germany, Sweden, France, and other European nations have explored the importance of narrative competence, looking at learners’ ability to develop historical narratives and their ability to critically analyse the deep structure of narratives (Calder, 2013; Eliasson et al., 2015; Grever & Adriaansen, 2019; Kölbl & Konrad, 2015; Lantheaume & Létourneau, 2016; Reich et al., 2015; Waldis et al., 2015). Canadian educators are only starting to investigate these aspects of historical consciousness. Until recently, the focus was instead placed on questions of national belonging, citizenship skills, and grand narratives of the nation (Granatstein, 1998; Osborne, 2000; Sandwell, 2012). But things are now gradually changing, at least in our scholarly understanding of students’ historical thinking (Duquette, 2015; Gibson, 2017; Létourneau, 2014; Lévesque & Croteau, 2020; Lévesque et al., 2013; Zanazanian, 2015). As leading Canadian educator Peter Seixas contends, the [Canadian] model of historical thinking was developed – pragmatically, like the American and British – in order to be communicable and intelligible to teachers and their students, and yet rich enough (like the German) to lead them into explorations of fundamental epistemological and ontological problems of history. (Seixas, 2015, p. 5)

The Canadian historical thinking model has resulted in a variety of standards and practices among Canadian faculties of education and provincial school systems that specifically address students’ historical learning and assessment using key concepts: evidence, significance, continuity and change, causation, perspective-taking, and ethical judgment. But this model has also been criticized for paying too little attention to the interpretative, deconstructionist nature of history, as well as for ignoring narration as an essential meta-historical concept – and ultimately as a competence. As Seixas himself recognizes, the Canadian historical thinking model “has omitted discussion on how these historical thinking concepts… can contribute to the construction and critique of narrative interpretations” (Seixas, 2017, p. 262).

This state of affairs may seem paradoxical in today’s context of Canadian school reforms that aim to place greater emphasis on inquiry, critical thinking skills, and multiple perspectives. Indeed, how are students supposed to evaluate competing narrative perspectives if they have not learned how narratives are constructed? For Québec historian Jean-François Cardin (2015), the current ←72 | 73→situation is rooted in a certain misunderstanding of new pedagogies that place students at the heart of learning and that dispute the role of narratives in education. Such narrations are perceived to be harmful to critical thinking and active learning of the history method. As Marc-André Éthier (2014) puts it, “if history is to be taught as a science, then schools should respect its disciplinary nature and insist not on reinstating one or more stories, but on the practice of historical inquiry.”

Narration and history

We believe that this opposition between “narration” and the “history discipline” is sterile. It creates an imaginary gap between the historian and his or her work. In many ways, the controversy over the nature of history generated by postmodern theorists such as Hayden White and Keith Jenkins is largely over. For years now, the act of narration has been studied and recognized as an epistemological foundation of history knowledge and represents a proven construction which, as Paul Ricoeur contends, “exposes the discourse of the historian” (as cited in Cardin, 2015, p. 3). Indeed, the need to make sense of and give meaning to the world (past and present) implies a process by which historians, no less than citizens, transform past realities and makes their actualization possible through history. As Rüsen argues, “the linguistic form within which historical consciousness realizes its function of [temporal]orientation is that of the narrative” (Rüsen, 2005, p. 26). It is through narration that it becomes possible to inscribe the dimensions of time (the temporality) in a continuous process and thus to offer a synthetic vision of the human experience.

In any given society, there are always conflicting interpretations of the past, and some of these are purely driven by ideological or political agendas. They are, in the words of Jocelyn Létourneau, “mythistories” in the sense that they embody collective references, clichés, stereotypes, and representations through which the past, the present and the future are not only decoded but anticipated (Létourneau, 2006, p. 80). Narrative competence is about learning to understand why it is that narratives are plural, multifaceted, and never definitive. It also involves coming to appreciate the intellectual tools emerging from the history discipline to evaluate these representations, how they are constructed and what power and limit they have. Without such disciplinary competence, as Sam Wineburg contends, people are like passengers on board a collective ship with no rudder to navigate “the shoals of the competing narratives that vie for [their] allegiance” (Wineburg, 2000, p. 311).

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If we are interested in teaching students to construct and deconstruct historical narratives, then efforts should be made in history education to conceptualize what we mean by historical narrative. As Monika Waldis and her colleagues observe, “the conceptualization of narrative competence remains vague” precisely because we lack effective understandings of narration in history (Waldis et al., 2015, p. 117). For Seixas (2017), recent debates in the field has led to a consensus on three propositions about historical narration.

First, narrative representations and the past are conceptually and ontologically different. The historical narrative is indeed a construct that, from a retrospective vision, gives a sense of coherence and direction to the past. It does not simply show what actually happened as Leopold von Ranke once proclaimed. This realistic view of history, as an objective reality out there that can be recovered and truthfully represented in the right story of the past, has gradually given way to more deconstructionist approaches which reveal the presumptive and contingent nature of historical knowledge. Most historians –at least in the academic world –now accept that their narratives are not direct copies of the past but historical representations of a particular linguistic mode or discourse. As such, they cannot be cross-referenced with the past itself (as it is gone), only with other representations of it.

Second, there can be more than one historical narrative for any set of events from the past, centring on different questions, perspectives, ethical choices, and narrative focalisations. Unlike the naive view of history sometimes held by students, there is no such thing as a complete, definitive grand narrative that encompasses all aspects of the past. In addition, narratives intend to answer particular questions about the past and these questions are vast and informed by ongoing, contemporary realities. In other words, new events trigger additional questions about the past that were not initially envisioned in previous narrative works. “The past,” as Arthur Chapman (2016) puts it, “has a future and the future keeps rewriting the past” (p. 4).

Finally, all narratives can be criticized for their plausibility. Unlike fictional narratives, historical narratives aim at representing a coherent reality of the past that conveys true, verifiable statements. But since history is a mode of narrative representation, it has no absolutist epistemological meaning in itself, only a sense of correspondence as plausibility. History is thus a complex activity which demands strategies for explanation of argumentation and justification of narrative arrangement, and these disciplinary strategies differentiate historical narratives from other stories of the past generated by the practices of collective memory such as mythistories.

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Narrative competence: narration, content and expression

Following these three prepositions, it becomes possible to envision a model of narrative competence that would inform teacher education, and ultimately the development of historical consciousness among learners. Recently, historian Alun Munslow (2007) has proposed a simplified, yet intelligible model that in our view characterizes narrative competence in history while making it possible to integrate Canadian concepts of historical thinking. This model, inspired by the influential work of Gérard Genette (1980), is represented in the form of a triangle with narration (authorial function) at the apex, and content/story (the past), and expression (mode of representation) located at the other two vertex points of the triangle.


First, the past has to be organized in story-form. As we noted earlier, the past is not initially structured in a coherent story. While historical agents had narrative visions of their own, these representations are contextually-situated in the past and created for purposes of their own time and, as such, do not provide us with present-day stories we generate about this past. The content/story element is the location for the narrator’s creation of the story space which delimits the beginning, the end, and the orderly arrangement of events.

The concept of story space requires a more detailed understanding of the explanatory strategies for content/story that historians use as way to present narratives. After all, historical narratives are not simply summaries of established facts. When historians write narratives, they offer constructed arguments which are open to discussion and debate. These strategies might be best considered in terms of key questions that implicitly drive the work of history narrators: How was the story created? What is the orderly arrangement of the discrete elements? How is the argumentation historically plausible? What ethical choices were made? How are these choices culturally-bound?

What follows from these questions is a more specific discussion on the role of historical thinking in structuring an argument in story-form. Interestingly, Seixas (2017) has recently proposed to transpose historical thinking concepts in terms of “narrative plausibility,” that is the disciplinary patterns of narrative construction. Seixas’ transposition helps understand how historical narratives present particular arguments about the past using key concepts and related dimensions, as well as in reference to the logic of the claims made by their authors. The following presents historical thinking concepts as adapted by Seixas to the dimensions of narrative plausibility (Seixas, 2017).

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Tab. 1: Narrative plausibility in reference to historical thinking concepts

Evidence Evidentiary plausibility
Continuity and change Temporal plausibility
Cause and consequence Causal plausibility
Perspective taking Empathetic plausibility
Ethical dimension Normative plausibility

Evidentiary plausibility refers not only to established facts (like dates, events, actors) but also to “the body of evidence whose interpretation support a particular narrative” (Seixas, 2017, p. 260).

Temporal plausibility serves to establish the temporal experience of past times as expressed in the story-form, that is the means of understanding the past and its specific temporal quality as well as its translation into our understanding of the present.

Causal plausibility is necessary to structure an argumentation so that events assembled as causes in the narrative “convincingly determine the events and the conditions identified as consequences” (Seixas, 2017, p. 262).

Empathetic plausibility makes it possible to understand human experiences and their complexity. Through perspective-taking, it becomes possible to appreciate the minds and feeling of people, past and present.

Normative plausibility refers to the moral and ethical values that underline the narrator’s own positionality and perspective or moral compass of the story.

The transposition of historical thinking concepts onto elements of narrative plausibility provides useful elements for the realization of the content/story of narration. It shows that the organization of the past into story-form by the historian requires important narrative decisions that cannot be left to intuitive storytelling practices. But narrative theorists like Gérard Genette, Roland Barthes, Tzvetan Todorov, and Vladimir Propp have argued that the story-arrangement is also governed by distinctive narrative choices or logical constraints that any series of events must respect in order to be coherent and intelligible. Propp, for instance, was the first one to identify schematic narrative patterns based on a series of recurrent constant functions intended to structure the content/story of folk tales. Applied to history, scholars like James Wertsch (2008) have also discussed the intrinsic structure of historical narratives suggesting, among other things, that schematic templates (generalized functions that characterize narratives) are powerful cognitive tools that provide distinctive ways of ←76 | 77→emploting events for historical memory and identity purposes. In our works, we have also demonstrated how young and adult Canadians construct narratives of the nation using schematic narrative templates (e.g., la survivance of French Canada, European colonial progress) supplied by collective memory.

Once learning history is thought as coming to understand how narratives are structured in story-form, with distinctive procedures and principles of narrative plausibility, it becomes easier to promote narrative competence. But narration requires another key element for Munslow, the telling (the narrative mode of representation), for every content/story there is always a history-narrator.

The expression

Narrative is not merely a medium of report designed to show what actually happened; it is a discourse that uses aesthetic principles to turn the past into “the-past-as-history” (Munslow, 2007, p. 182). Following Aristotle’s rhetoric, Victor Ferry (2011) has recently explained how historical narratives are dependent upon both “extratechnical” evidence from the dimensions of narrative plausibility and rhetorical “technical” evidence generated by the narrator. For Ferry, the discursive nature of narrative makes it impossible to separate the two sets of proofs even if historians tend to ignore how the narrative act “goes all the way through the process” of their historical investigation (Munslow, 2007, p. 24). As he observes, the persuasive power of historical narrative is partly based on “processes that are part of the very structure of the text” (Ferry, 2011, p. 128).

But how does technical evidence, that is the rhetorical act of narrating, makes historical narratives more plausible? In order to answer this question, we have to look at three interrelated elements of narration as a mode of representation: the historian as narrator, voice, and focalisation.

First, historians use narratives as a way to present their arguments. Their role is not to rescue stories from the past but to offer representations, convincing representations of it –reference to the past, explanation of the past, and meaning for the past. These representations are neither fixed nor universal; they reveal the historian’s own argument and positionality – his or her historical perspectives, emotions, and beliefs. Talking more broadly about narratology, Barthes asks us to always consider the invariable question when approaching narratives: who is speaking? Answers to this question helps reveal the diegetic universe that historians create for arranging their narratives. This universe represents the spatiotemporal environment within which the story unfolds. Variations in narrative diegetic universe occur for different reasons: the perspective of the narrator (his/her viewpoint), the purpose of the narrative (the goal set by the narrator), the relation between the subject and the narrator (how ←77 | 78→he/she relates to and engage with sources), and the context in which the narrative is produced (the historical culture in which the narrator lives). Thus, on any given history subject, there can be more than one plausible narrative due to the fact that each narrator has a distinctive positionality. This positionality shapes the discourse of the narrators or how they narrate the past-as-history.

Narrators can also increase the plausibility of their narratives by generating arguments within a diegetic universe that better reveals their own subjectivity. Unlike fictional stories, historical narratives must be framed in discursive ways that comply with canons of historical argumentation. As Chapman observes, histories are written by narrators (hence subjective) but are written in ways that are open to scrutiny by an interpersonal audience (the narratee(s)). The plausibility of their narrative argument is thus linked “to the degree to which the patterns of explanation (and of sense-making) are made explicit and acceptable to the audience” (Körber, 2015, p. 18).

Looking at the historian as narrator leads us to consider the twin concepts of voice and focalisation of the narrative. The narrator has a particular voice which is usually made clear through narrative choices. This voice can be personal and explicit with references to the “I” form in text (first-person narrator) but it can also be external or implied without direct reference to the narrator, as it is often the case in history textbooks – thus leading to the students’ naive illusion that there is no narrator. This position is referred to as the omniscient narrator because he or she tells the story without direct involvement in the content/story but knows everything about the characters and the events described.

Focalisation refers to the focal choices of the narrator in the organization and presentation of the diegetic universe. It is defined in terms of the point of view from which the story is being told: the narrator, the characters or the historical agents. If the voice deals with “who speaks” in the story, focalisation is concerned with “who sees” within the diegetic universe (Munslow, 2007, p. 48). To tell a story from a character’s point of view means to present the historical events as they are perceived, felt, interpreted and evaluated by him or her at a particular moment, and with the information available to the character.

The historian as narrator has the power over both the voice and the focalisation of the narrative discourse. In fact, historians often resort to various types and combinations of voice and/or focalisation to make their narratives more intelligible and plausible. As a matter of fact, the forms that historians use in their writing often reveal their distinctive purpose and own identity as narrators. He or she makes sense of the past through those “narrative-making decisions and turns” (Munslow, 2007, p. 138). As French historian Arlette Farge confesses, “For me, it’s not fiction. I am convinced that words, the place of words, ←78 | 79→the syntax, the wording, the expression, the writing process, makes it possible for a story to present sensitive, unrevealed movements, opinions, crowds, and feelings. Words can do that” (Farge as quoted in Ferry, 2011, p. 130).

Teaching the narrative competence: instructional implications

A growing body of research indicates that students are not only capable of creating historical narratives of the collective past but, when provided with adequate tools and strategies, they can also engage in active reconstruction of the past using principles of historical thinking. The German FUER model is one such example showing that purposeful didactical approaches for constructing narratives offer evidence of students’ ability and active role in “making history” (Körber & Meyer-Hamme, 2015, p. 98). Yet, current teacher education programs, at least in Canada, rarely engage pre-service teachers in the practice of making history. As leading Canadian educator Alan Sears puts it, in speaking with the pre-service teachers I meet today, little seem to have changed. Many, even those with majors in history, have little or no first-hand experience with the processes of doing history…. They haven’t, in other words, had to think historically, but rather have been relatively passive observers of others’ attempts to do so (Sears, 2014, p. 12).

The results of such passive strategies are consequential. If teachers do not know how to engage in the construction and deconstruction of historical narratives, how are they supposed to teach their students to do so? Our own research results indicate that Canadian students’ historical narratives are highly simplified, selective stories of the collective past with linear patterns of historical development and limited focalisation and voices from a diversity of experiences that characterize Canada’s past. In many ways, their narratives have more to do with collective memory than with recent developments in Canadian historiography. It is evident from our studies that current teacher education approaches have not solicited the intellectual tools of the narrative competence. As Robert Martineau points out, “rarely are the resources of ‘narrative thinking’ considered to reflect on situations or realities of the past, to generate representations based on historical sources, and to offer plausible interpretations expressed in the form of a narrative” (Martineau, 2010, p. 178–179).

We believe like Sears that if we want to change teachers’ practices, we must also look into ways of reforming current teacher education programs so as to set teachers on an “inbound trajectory” to nurture them as active practitioners of the history discipline and not as passive outsiders of the field (Sears, 2014, p. 13). In other words, teachers must feel they belong to history communities of ←79 | 80→practice not so much to become professional historians themselves, but rather to understand and gradually develop expertise in the practice of constructing and deconstructing historical narratives – an essential competence of historical consciousness.

While there is no magical formula for reforming teacher education, as so much is dependent upon professional context and culture, we propose in conclusion a strategy that better mobilizes research findings in history education. We understand that preparing teachers to teach narrative competence cannot be accomplished by simply telling them what to do, but by encouraging them to take part in meaningful and relevant practices of making history. As such, our approach should be understood as a roadmap to set them on an inbound trajectory, moving them from the periphery to the core of history. First, our research suggests that teachers should adopt a constructivist view of history learning and teach in reference students’ own narrative ideas of the collective past. Language, gender, culture, and identity seriously affect how students engage with the past and create narrative representations of it. As a matter of fact, the more students develop identification with events and predecessors, the more likely are they to engage with this past. In our most recent study, for example, students who strongly identified as Québécois or French Canadians were also those who produced the most engaged, militant stories of the collective past. They often related directly to predecessors and used the first-person plural narrative voice to establish a sense of collective identification and historical continuity (“we lost the Seven Years’ War,” “they took our rights away”). Educators should strategically use this personal connection to explore students’ identity, prior knowledge and historical beliefs; in order words, what they accept, ignore, or (dis)miss in their understandings of the past. As Keith Barton and Alan McCully contend, students “need more opportunity to engage with their own perspectives” (Barton & McCully, 2012, p. 398).

If we want students to progress in their historical thinking, we need to develop progression models and related learning strategies that allow teachers to see where their individual students stand with regard to their (mis)conceptions about the past and about the nature of history so as to gradually transform these into more powerful and usable ones. “A correct understanding of the epistemological underpinnings of history,” as Jeffery Nokes and Susan De La Paz note, is a prerequisite for argumentative historical narrative (Nokes & De La Paz, 2017, p. 560). For instance, those who look for evidence as hard facts and trust narratives to reveal the true representation of the past have a hard time accepting that history is based on disciplinary criteria and evaluative principles for crafting historical interpretations. These naive beliefs create one of the ←80 | 81→greatest challenges for engaging students in thinking historically. Cultivating narrative competence thus requires some important understandings of learners’ beliefs about historical knowledge and narratives. To be truly usable for orienting their lives in modern, complex societies, the stories students employ should not only be coherent and useful, they also ought to be historically rigorous and well-founded in evidence.

Second, and in relation to the first element, teachers should move students beyond their previous historical understandings by opening up their minds to alternatives perspectives they would not have considered otherwise. A key principle of schooling in modern, liberal democracy is precisely to cultivate openmindedness and perspective-taking. As societies become increasingly complex and culturally diversified, with people asserting radically different views and stories of the collective past, it is imperative to teach students multiperspectivity and empathetic connectivity. By encountering the experiences of different groups and individuals in society (French vs. English Canadians, Aboriginals, marginalized groups, etc.) students can learn to appreciate and care for varied perspectives on past and present realities and not exclusively the dominant ones of their own community. In this sense, as Maria Grever and Robbert-Jan Adriaansen argue, multiperspectivity is “as much about learning about the past as it is about learning about the limits of [one’s] own assumptions and prejudices” (Grever & Adriaansen, 2019, p. 824).

Our own studies have shown that even within the context of the classroom, students are far from a monolithic group when it comes to history. For the same collective past, they often generate as narrators very different historical narratives, placing emphasis on distinctive periods, events, agents, and perspectives. Discrepancies, both among stories and with students’ own prior understanding, can potentially lead them “to seek additional evidence that would confirm or contradict particular accounts” (Barton & McCully, 2012, p. 398). In this way, perspective-taking or empathy might motivate students to engage in more sophisticated narrations that are founded in evidence (as opposed to mythistories) and informed by alternative perspectives; in other words, narrative representations that are “polythetic” in nature (Shemilt, 2000).

Finally, teachers should reveal and teach the construction of historical narratives. In many ways, students learn history through narratives (e.g., classroom lectures, textbooks, movies, and oral stories). But rarely are these problematized and deconstructed in any disciplinary way in class (Lévesque, 2016). If we want students to think historically and develop more critical approaches to the collective past, teachers should explain the structure, the story space, the grammar, the rhetorical mode of expression, and the purpose ←81 | 82→of historical narratives in society. Stories may well be a primary mode of thought but they are not the past, and hence set limits on what we consider significant enough to tell and remember. Many narratives are told in society which may contradict, compete with, or complement one another, and this means that students should be equipped with the intellectual tools to deal with the constructed nature of these representations of the past.

Argumentative narrative writing is a complex and difficult activity that is still poorly integrated into Canadian history education. In fact, narrative writing is still seen as a literacy skill (taught in language arts), not a feature of history learning. Equally problematic, when narrative is used in school, it is often naively presented in opposition to argumentation (the typical five-paragraph essay) as if narration was exclusively a literary genre and not a form of historical knowledge production. Once history is understood and taught as a form of knowledge that contributes to the construction of narrative competence then it becomes possible to envisage various strategies that will help students to create more valid representations of the past that will, in turn, shape their historical consciousness. This does not mean that students will become “mini-historians,” as some critics have wrongly claimed, but it does mean that they will gradually learn how narrative interpretations are created and used in society.

In conclusion, we might say that simplified representations of the collective past breed exclusion and mutual ignorance; they do not equip 21st century people with the tools to orient themselves in highly diverse political communities made up of contesting memories and living stories. To be truly usable, students’ historical narratives must be more complex and open to different voices, ethical choices, and perspectives. In order to play a more productive role in this process, we believe that history education needs to prepare teachers to be more conscious of and proactive in providing students with what we call engagement in narrative competence.


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1 This chapter is based on arguments presented more extensively in our most recent book Beyond History for Historical Consciousness: Students, Narrative, and Memory. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020. This paper si result of research project granted by Seneca Foundation. Regional Agency for Science and Technology, grant number 20638/JLI/18.

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Fredrik Alvén

Chapter 4  Please let it be a history test with a content I can handle: How girls and boys perform in the national test in history in Sweden1

Abstract: In Sweden a national test in history since 2013 in the spring the last term for the compulsory school is performed. During the period 2013 to 2019 the boys have been performing all the better. In the year of 2019, the boys even had the same results as the girls at the national test. This does not apply to other national tests, where the girls outperform the boys. Research describes the boys’ poor performance in school with rather predestining hypotheses about a deconstructive macho culture among the boys, biological differences between the genders or discrimination towards the boys in the school. This study assumed that the answer to the boys’ better results at the history test over time must be found in the test itself and the boys’ understanding of history, a subject matter education approach, that is. With statistical methods it is shown that a certain type of history and forms of the tasks suites boys better and vice versa for the girls. These results involve difficult questions to history as a subject to be assessed and graded.

Keywords: History teaching, Assessment, National test, Gender differences, Fairness.

Research explaining the boys’ poor results in the school

Both in Sweden and in the Western world overall boys have been performing worse and worse in the school during the new century (Clark et al., 2008; OECD, 2015). This development worries authorities in Sweden, while it can lead to a severe gender gap on the labor market and, in the future, a gender inequality overall (SOU, 2009: 64). In Sweden the girls have had better grades for a long ←87 | 88→time in most subjects and the last decade they also have outperformed the boys in math and natural sciences (Zimmerman, 2018). More girls are getting the highest grades and more boys are not even approved a grade (Skolverket SIRI 2020.04.24)). In Sweden gender seems to explain school performance better than belonging to a minority group or a social class without privileges (Skolverket, 2006). The gap between boys and girls are also widening faster in Sweden than in other OECD countries. The ones hardest hit are the low-performing boys (OECD, 2015). As a result, we today see more women at the universities and especially at those with the highest status (Zimmerman, 2018; UKÄ, 20.04.24).

The research trying to explain these gender differences in school performance is vast and complex. Overall, they cluster around three categories: social and cultural factors, biological factors and, finally, school factors.

The social and cultural research describing the gap between boys and girls in school performance points to different sets of behaviors, attitudes and values. These different norms between boys and girls are understood in cultural contexts with norms of masculinity and femininity (Epstein et al., 1998; Weaver-Hightower, 2003). The boys’ underachievement is explained as a result of a macho culture that forces them to a behavior that doesn’t fit to school achievement. This includes disruptive behavior, anti-school attitudes and a longing for masculine attributes (Francis, 1999). These norms operate collectively, and the boys are ridiculed by their friends if they work hard and show that they want to perform well in school. On the contrary, they are requested to behave challenging to the school norms (Warrington et al., 2000). That’s the way the boys are gaining their masculine identity and appreciation among their friends (Jackson, 2003). This also seems to hinder the boys to ask for help in school (Ryan et al., 2009). Meanwhile girls have more positive attitudes towards school (OECD, 2009). The girls also seem to value hard work and self-discipline higher than boys (Costa et al., 2001). Values that are related to school success.

The biological research explains the differences between boys and girls with physical differences. The brain organization, hormones and genetics would then be to the boys’ disadvantage in the school work (Cahill, 2006; Gibb et al., 2008). The boys seem to mature later and are hopelessly behind the girls already at the school start. Some research even interprets the boys’ worse school performance as biologically determined (Gurian, 2001; Sax, 2005). In Sweden some researches mean that the boys’ way of thinking don’t fit in today’s school and ←88 | 89→point to the fact that boys today are oftener labelled with some kind of learning disability (Levander, 1990).


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2021 (March)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 410 pp., 39 fig. b/w, 67 tables.

Biographical notes

Cosme J. Gómez Carrasco (Volume editor) Pedro Miralles Martínez (Volume editor) Ramón López Facal (Volume editor)

Cosme Jesús Gómez Carrasco is senior lecturer of Social Sciences Education at University of Murcia (Spain). Pedro Miralles Martínez is senior lecturer of Social Sciences Education at University of Murcia (Spain). Ramón López Facal is senior lecturer of Social Sciences Education at University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).


Title: Handbook of Research on Teacher Education in History and Geography