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History as Knowledge

Ethical Values and Meaning in Encounters with History

Niklas Ammert

What do you know when you know something about history? What is important to know and how do you learn? Adolescents encounter history everywhere: at school, in the family, in media and society. But how do adolescents perceive history and in what ways do aspects of meaning and ethical values affect the encounters with history? This study discusses how Swedish adolescents and teachers encounter, communicate and define knowledge about history, analysing the process from curricula and history textbooks to the world of the pupils.
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Chapter 9. To learn and to know history


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Chapter 9. To learn and know history

What does one know when one knows something about history? What is important to know? How does one learn history? In what manner and through which contexts do teenagers encounter history? What are the relationships like between meaning-making and history? What is meaningful regarding history for teenagers? How do they work with history at school and how do they learn best?

For a long time, school policy documents as well as public debates have used the expression “the pupil in the centre.” Though it might be an over-used phrase, it agrees well with the starting point and implementation of the investigations that form the basis of this book. The expression “…in the centre” has actually mostly been developed by military leadership, where the learning of the individual, the group and the unit takes priority and the emphasis on organization, intermediaries and external circumstances are regarded as prerequisites. In this context, I use the expression “the pupil in the centre” in order to emphasize that history didactics deals with people’s encounters with history – here based on the pupil’s perspective.

In this final chapter, the investigations and results of the various chapters are put together and discussed in regard to new “cuts”. This means that the pupils’ experiences and perceptions of knowledge about history form the basis. These are related to how knowledge is represented and emphasized in the curricula, in the teachers’ perceptions and in...

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