Teaching for historical understanding: some thematic continuities with the work of Lawrence Stenhouse: Reflections on chapters by Rachel Foster, Rob Somers and Paula Worth

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The argument in this chapter is that the research of Foster, Somers, and Worth illustrates important aspects of Lawrence Stenhouse’s idea of ‘the teacher as a researcher’. Stenhouse linked the idea with the critical testing of theory informed curriculum proposals by teachers in classrooms conceived as ‘laboratories’. All three authors are history teachers whose research involves the critical testing of such proposals and the theories they embody in action. Their work clearly demonstrates that in the experimental process of classroom research they themselves are not only engaged in curriculum implementation but also in the development of the curriculum itself and the theories that underpin it. The development of theory and practice in the curriculum field was for Stenhouse a unified process, which is well exemplified in the work of these authors. Their work, it is argued, illustrates two further aspects of Stenhouse’s idea of ‘the teacher as a researcher’. Firstly, with respect to the strong links between this idea and a ‘process model’ of curriculum design aimed at the ‘development of understanding.’ The latter implies, according to Stenhouse, a dynamic conception of the nature of knowledge as an object of speculative thought. The use of an ‘objectives model’ to plan students’ curriculum experiences, he argued, only served to distort the nature of knowledge and the development of their understanding as a pedagogical aim. The research by Foster, Somers, and Worth depicts their struggle with the conceptual issues of ‘teaching for understanding’ in the field of history in a policy context that attempts to fix the meanings of key concepts for the sake of being able to objectively measure learning. Secondly, their research illustrates its contribution to the construction of a curriculum and pedagogical discourse about teaching historical concepts and skills. This chapter shows how these authors skilfully use the work of professional historians, history educators and practicing teachers as resources for constructing such a discourse to inform their research. In doing so they help to develop a common language that supports practitioner research more generally in the field of history teaching. Stenhouse viewed teacher research as a collaborative rather than individualistic process made possible through the development of a shared language. The work of Foster, Somers and Worth can be viewed as ‘scaffolding’ on which to mount further inquiries by other classroom teachers of history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMasterClass in History Education
Subtitle of host publicationTransforming Teaching and Learning
EditorsChristine Counsell, Katharine Burn, Arthur Chapman
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781472530950
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2016

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