Title page for ETD etd-092399-110125

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hicks, David
Author's Email Address hicks@vt.edu
URN etd-092399-110125
Title Constructing Oneself as a Teacher of History: Case Studies of the Journey to the Other Side of the Desk by Preservice Teachers in England and America
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Harris, Larry A. Committee Chair
Barber, Elizabeth A. Committee Member
Nespor, Jan K. Committee Member
Niles, Jerome A. Committee Member
Niles, Ruth Anne Committee Member
  • autobiography
  • learning to teach
  • teacher narratives
  • history curriculum
  • teacher education
  • comparative ethnography
Date of Defense 1999-07-16
Availability restricted
The research described in this dissertation has its antecedents in my own experiences as a student and teacher of history in both England and the USA. Reflecting back on such experiences as a teacher educator in the US has led to a hypothesis that history teaching is conceptualized and performed differently by teachers in England and the US. This study used contrasting case studies of two English and two American preservice history teachers to illuminate and compare how the development of their understanding of history and evolving construction of self as history teacher influenced their everyday pedagogical performances as they began to teach history.

Detailed portraits of teaching developed for this study show how the pedagogical approach to teaching history with an emphasis on developing historical understanding through learning the skills of the discipline of history in England contrast with the American emphasis on content coverage through the pedagogy of telling the tale of the past. The study revealed the participant's adherence to these two contrasting traditions in the teaching of history. This can be understood by examining two continually interweaving components: 1) well remembered events, and interactions associated with learning history and history teaching that form a "biographic conception" of history teaching, and 2) ongoing experiences and expected outcomes of planning and teaching history in a particular way. Within the scope of this study, particular attention was given to the participant's contextual understandings of: A) official history curriculum, B) their cooperating teacher and C) their students as they began to plan and teach history within their internship.

The case studies compare and describe how the participants' biographic conceptions of both history and history teaching act as a filter through which the differing expectations of their respective history curriculum, their cooperating teacher and departments were mediated and negotiated. While the biographic conception of history exerted an enduring influence on their understanding of what it means to learn and study history in high school, the study revealed that the participants' ongoing classroom interactions with their students in conjunction with meeting the expectations of their cooperating teachers and departments constrained and limited the participants' perspectives as to what they believed was possible within the history classroom. The case studies here highlight the interactive forces and complexity of learning to become a teacher of history and have further implications for exploring the possibilities and constraints of two competing traditions in the teaching of history. This comparative study raises questions and opportunities for examining such epistemological questions as What is history? and How should it be taught in high school? The work shows that the role of history teacher can be and should be more than a teller of the tale of the past. It also highlights the problems faced by teachers and students when the primary goal of history is focused on the difficult task of learning historical skills and concepts. However, if the goals of history teaching in the US are truly for the development of knowledgeable, critically thinking citizens, then teacher educators must begin to provide opportunities and create communities of practice which encourage preservice teachers to not only break their attachment to the pedagogy of telling but also develop their skills to think historically to the end of organizing learning experiences that emphasize the doing of history within their classrooms.

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