Facing the Gap: How Is Curricular Theory Brought into Practice?

Crucial theoretical concepts of history education, for describing the general objective of history-didactical activity in the classroom, are Historical Thinking Concepts and Historical Reasoning, as principles for the promotion and development of a reflective historical consciousness as well as the desire for individual advancement of different types of students (Korber, Schreiber, & Schoner, 2007; Van Drie & Van Boxtel, 2008; Seixas & Morton, 2013). This vocabulary, referring to the idea of the historically informed critical citizen, has ‘arrived’ to the Western competency-based curricula in varying degrees. In this situation, the curriculum takes on a new quality for teacher training because now the formation of history-didactic theory is implemented by the curriculum, although not everywhere to the same degree and not always with a congruent understanding of the content of the vocabulary. Nevertheless, didactically reflective history teachers can now read the curriculum also in a way opposing the intended historical narrative, and connect this counter-reading with the history curriculum’s theoretical framework. In this way, teachers could analyze the historical-political and socio-cultural trends in the curricula for themselves and for their students, disclose and deconstruct them in favor of the curricular objective of promoting reflective historical consciousness with counter-histories.

However, from the results of the research realized in recent years comes the impression of a wide gap between the implementation of competence orientation intended by the curriculum on the one hand, and the instructional practices of teachers on the other hand:

“[Historical reasoning has been included in recent years in [...] national history curricula in many countries [...] students should learn to reason critically with and about multiple sources [...] to construct and deconstruct historical narratives [.] to judge the validity of these interpretations [...]. [.] Although the importance of teaching historical reasoning skills has been widely accepted, still relatively little is known about pedagogical principles that foster the development of this reasoning.” (Stoel, Van Drie, & Van Boxtel, 2015: 4)

This is also confirmed by research that indicates that teachers know the abstract concepts and requirements of history didactics and competence- oriented history curricula in theory. They can name it, correctly define it, and can declare it as their own professional ethos (Barton & Levstik, 2003). At the same time, they fail to implement these principles in the teaching practice and it’s planning (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Brauch et al., 2014; Leinhardt & Ravi, 2008; Magdefrau & Michler, 2012). Yet, we know so far, history teacher research up to now remains in the dark as to how their use could affect the teacher’s concrete planning and teaching activities. Nevertheless, studies from England and more recently from the Netherlands give reason to believe that the teacher, who was kept out of the picture

Four history curriculum competence dimensions

Fig. 31.1 Four history curriculum competence dimensions

by constructivist theories of learning and whose appropriate professional skills were being presupposed, could be the key to filling the gaps between implementation and realization (Chapman, 2003; Counsell, 2011; Reisman, 2012; Stoel et al., 2015).

Assuming that the historically informed, critically thinking citizen represents a conditio sine qua non for the durability of democratic structures (Wineburg & Reisman, 2014: 231), it is an important task for the university history didactics to deal with history curricula subjected to constant change by the democratic ‘pendulum’ (Goldberg, 2013). Because, the more independently, scientifically and reflection-oriented history teachers can act toward the genre of history curriculum, the more they will be able to deal critically with the narratives represented in curricula and the school history books (Brauch, 2015; Brauch, Logtenberg, & Nuckles, 2012). Therefore, proceeding from the curriculum genre, a modeling of competence dimensions would be helpful for the professionalization of future history teachers, as the latter should be able to develop a critical history-curricular competency. To this end, a proposal will be developed in the next section (see Fig. 31.1).

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