Empathetic and transformative engagement in historical understanding: A design-based exploration of an analytical-hermeneutic approach to teaching history in the classroom

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The recent revision to the social studies curriculum in British Columbia is built around Seixas's and Morton's "Big Six" historical thinking concepts. The Big Six, however, omit some significant pedagogical objectives valued by teachers, including that of helping students to care about the past. This dissertation presents the Historical Process Constructs (HPCs), a hermeneutic teaching tool designed by the author in his practice as a secondary history teacher. The HPCs are designed to guide students in historical interpretation while keeping their pre-judgments in play, and to promote empathetic and transformative judgements in interpreting traces of the past. The philosophical and historiographical underpinnings of the HPCs are discussed, and it is situated in relation to select current literature on the teaching and learning of history. A design-based research study is then presented which examines 162 students' work with the HPCs in the context of a document-based inquiry carried out in 8 Vancouver-area history classrooms with four volunteer teachers. A variety of student data, including pre-surveys, responses to the questions that compose the HPCs themselves, and post-interviews with a small number of participating students, were analyzed inductively as part of a qualitative-dominant mixed-methods research design. The empirical portion of the study provides suggestive evidence that the HPCs may help students gain a deeper understanding of the complex nature of historical interpretation, and may prompt empathetic and transformative engagement in the interpretation of historical traces. Importantly, the qualitative data analyses produced as part of the study provide the basis upon which assessment instruments can be developed that would support stronger causal claims about the value of the HPCs as a teaching tool.
283 pages.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Kevin
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