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History Education as Content, Methods or Orientation?

A Study of Curriculum Prescriptions, Teacher-made Tasks and Student Strategies

David Rosenlund

Historical content, historical methods and historical orientation are three aspects that may be taught in history education. This study examines the emphases which are included in formal curricula texts and those which are included in teacher-made tasks. The results show that the curricula of history education contains historical content, orientation and methods, yet history teachers focus almost exclusively on the historical content. In a second step, this study examines the strategies with which students may process and combine elements from the three emphases of content, orientation and methods. The results provide insight into what strategies the students use and how they process the relationship between historical knowledge, historical methods and historical orientation.

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2. Theoretical Considerations

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2.  Theoretical Considerations

This chapter concludes with a presentation of the theoretical framework used to analyse the empirical material of this thesis. However, before presenting this framework, I will deepen the discussion in the introduction on different ways to approach history education by presenting two philosophies of history that have had an impact on history education. These two traditions are exemplified with the ideas of two history educators who are influential in the Nordic context. Thereafter, I present how these philosophies have been operationalized in history education, and in the course of this discussion, I also discuss how elements from the two traditions relate to each other.

Two philosophies

In beginning of the twenty-first century, increased interest within history education research was directed towards two traditions in history education. These two traditions are both rooted in different philosophical traditions, resulting in two different approaches to history education in schools. In northern Europe, the most influential tradition mainly comes from the German context. This approach is focused more on meaning-making and the use of history in the present to orient between the past, the present and the future.6

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