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Teachers’ conceptions of history education : a phenomenographic inquiry Harding, James Craig

Abstract

This research examines three central questions: What are teachers' conceptions of history education?, What are the constituent components of these conceptions?, and Upon what sources of teacher knowledge are these conceptions based? To elicit data relevant to these questions a phenomenographic research methodology is utilised. In this phenomenographic inquiry, a conception is defined as the broadest possible understanding teachers have of what they teach, why they teach it, and how they teach it. The phenomenon in this inquiry is history education. Of primary interest are the ways in which teachers understand their purpose for history education. This inquiry utilises teachers' descriptions of their agendas and curriculum scripts to examine conceptions of history education. Certain foundational elements are used to analyse the data: a broad understanding of history education in which purpose is a salient feature; a tactical plan or the parts of instruction necessary to accomplish their purpose; reflective rationalisation which explains the knowledge upon which the purpose is predicated; and the extent to which the conception is consistent. Data is analysed from fourteen teachers who represent a cross section of teachers in secondary schools. Teachers have six ways of seeing their purposes. The conceptions include purposes focusing upon historiography, developing social studies methodology, developing a national collective identity, developing a non - national identity, developing an understanding of antecedents of current issues, and developing lessons from the past. Within conceptions representing more than one teacher, individual variations are found in the tactical plan, yet each retains enough similarity to suggest the broad categorisation. Teachers were asked to reflect upon the likely source of this conception. As phenomenography seeks to examine understanding, there is no need nor is there a way to confirm if the results reflect the actual source of their conception. However, it is significant that teachers state they believe they have developed their conception based upon certain sources. University scholarship, educational materials, the wisdom of practice, the role of students and collegial interaction are discussed as prominent in shaping conceptions. This research has important implications for teacher education and educational policy.

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