At a time of growing polarisation among politicians and the public, when people are increasingly entrenched in their views, and with nationalism on the rise – history is surely one of the most crucial subjects in the curriculum.
That is why a new journal launched this week by UCL IOE Press is so significant. With its online open-access publishing, the History Education Research Journal (HERJ) aims to fulfil an important civic function. History education is a hotly contested area of the curriculum – prone, for example, to highly polarised and embittered political battles over canons, personal and national identity, national history curricula and cultural transmission. Here politically HERJ has a major role internationally in establishing an informed discourse with politicians and policy makers who often have limited knowledge and understanding of history beyond its role in inculcating national identity, patriotic loyalty and nationalism, in ignorance of its crucial role in educating pupils to become questioning, informed and sceptical citizens of liberal democracies. HERJ’s educative mission is to raise the power and impact of public debates on history education by making high quality history education research findings and their policy, curricular and pedagogic implications freely, fully and publicly available.
HERJ – published twice a year – will build on the legacy of its precursor, the International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research (IJHTLR) a path-breaking enterprise since 2001.
As the journal’s editors, we are delighted to introduce the launch issue, HERJ 15.2, which reports cutting edge research and development in history education from around the world, including papers from Australia, the USA, Ghana, Canada, China, Malta and Switzerland. Good history teaching helps pupils confront their conceptions and misconceptions, and to think afresh about the way they see the world, so the subject must be far more than a parade of chronological facts. Articles by academics from Singapore and Germany, examine how children learn to think like historians, using primary sources and interpreting evidence.
Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore used an incident from the Cold War to engage students in developing ‘deeper awareness of the ways knowledge about the past is constructed, and the central role that historians play in that process’. This controversial incident, Operation Coldstore, is one about which most Singaporeans hold partisan views, so using historians’ methodology enables students to see how different interpretations can be drawn about the same event. The authors advocate more widespread teaching about historical controversy to enhance students’ understanding.
Primary children, too, can use historical methodology to help understand the nature of the discipline, say researchers from the Universities of Paderborn and Osnabruck in Germany. Children encounter history every day, and even young primary children are aware of the way ‘sources’ – for instance swords and shields found at a dig – tell us about the past. So schools should teach the methods of historical enquiry from the outset, they recommend.
National identity, and how it is built and challenged, forms a theme of several articles. These include: The history canon project as politics of identity: Renationalizing history education in Denmark; History and citizenship: Does the reformed Greek Cypriot primary history curriculum include myths and legends that represent the ‘other’?; and how to ensure heritage education is inclusive from Spain and Portugal.
HERJ is launched partnership with the Historical Association (HA) and the History Education International Research Network (HEIRNET). As an international, open-access, peer-reviewed journal HERJ focuses on the global significance and impact of history education. It covers all aspects of history education theory, scholarship and research in its own and related fields. Overall, HERJ aims to illuminate contemporary and controversial history educational issues, concerns, policies and practice, drawing upon its eclectic research methodologies.
The link between academics and the worlds of policy makers, curriculum developers, assessment bodies, teachers, parents and children is crucial. HERJ is interested in articles and reports on innovative, creative and exciting practitioner, case-study and action research involving both teachers and academics. Contributions are also welcome on large-scale research or research and development projects aimed to improve history educational policy, curricula, their implementation, and, crucially, pedagogy – the history teacher’s craft. For information about how to submit papers, visit HERJ’s page at the UCL IOE Press website.
HERJ 16.1 will focus on history education research in Germany and Austria, providing a fascinating insight into extensive, well established, rich and rigorous research on history education that is largely unknown in Anglophone countries and communities. The HERJ editorial team hope this will be the start of a mutually enriching and rewarding dialogue between the German and English-speaking history education communities.
Photo: detail of mural depicting Crusaders battling Saracens, Clermont Ferrand Cathedral, France, by Holly Hayes via Creative Commons