National history teaching among Finnish history teachers : Resources, challenges, controversies

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201706195028
Title: National history teaching among Finnish history teachers : Resources, challenges, controversies
Author: Salapuro, Hanna-Mari
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2017
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201706195028
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/193611
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sosiaalipsykologia
Social Psychology
Socialpsykologi
Abstract: In this study Finnish history teacher's conceptions and experiences on national history teaching are explored. As representatives of educational institution, teachers are situated in intersection point of official history curriculum, academic research, family histories and common sense understandings of history. Another point of this study is to find out what kind of mainstream narrative of national history is mediated at schools which are its focal elements and what is possibly excluded. Which possibly sensitive or controversial elements are present in history teaching are also studied. Theoretical background of this study can be divided in two parts. First part consists of social psychological approaches to studying history-related issues, especially Serge Moscovici's Social Representations Theory. The theory explores how common sense knowledge is constructed in social interaction. The second part consists of previous studies on history science and history didactics. Turning points in Finnish history and previous studies on national collective memory are introduced. Also different approaches to history teaching and how Finnish school history is in relation to them is discussed. The empirical part of this study consists of Finnish history teachers' individual interviews (N=11). Participants are teachers both at high school and upper comprehensive level schools mostly situated in Helsinki capital region. They have varying experience in teaching history and other subjects. The interview scheme consists of both open questions and statements. All interviews were conducted in Finnish, recorded and transcribed. The analysis of the interview data is based on Charmaz' (2006) version of Grounded theory. Main results of the study show that teachers' representations of history teaching are mostly 'enlightened' and 'skill-oriented' which are in line with official curriculum. More 'traditional' or 'romantic' representations of school history were present, although marginal in this sample. The values and aims that guide teachers' work are manifested in seven different roles that were found in this study: 'initiator of interest in history', 'creator of historical understanding', 'developer of critical thinking', 'mediator of scientific knowledge, facts and truth', 'mediator of values and attitudes', 'civic educator' and 'independent actor'. History is seen as educational and challenging subject which ought to develop student's ability to critical thinking, multiperspectivity, tolerance and overall understanding of the world. Main history narrative found in this study consists of eight hegemonic representations. This narrative is named as 'Coming-of-age-story' or 'Cinderella story' The cores of history representations form a combination of elements on which national history curriculum could be based: birth, development, unity, heroism, victimhood, balancing and belonging. These are powerful narrative elements through which national identity could be constructed in school history. Alternative/ marginal narratives also take part in this representational process, making history polyphasic and dynamic. Most of the controversy and sensitivity in this study is related to Finland’s wars and conflicts, so called ‘darker sides’ of national history: civil war, the Winter War and the Continuation War, co-operation with Nazi-Germany, prison camps and finlandization. Notable is that teachers’ talk about history’s sensitivity or controversy is often attached to today’s issues such as multiculturalism, racism and minority groups' rights. History of conflictual group relations evokes emotions within classroom which requires intercultural competence and sensitivity from teachers, especially when teaching history in multicultural groups. This study shows that teachers perceive national history teaching both challenging and rewarding, effected by many outside factors and being under constant change. Teaching is regarded as a vocation, which often derives from teacher’s own keen interest in history. These findings could be utilized in further studies and developing of history teachers’ education, workload and national curriculum.
Subject: history teaching
history representations
social representations
collective memory


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