CHALLENGING PRESERVICE TEACHER BELIEFS ABOUT THE PAST: THE INFLUENCE OF A COURSE DESIGNED TO SHIFT WAYS OF KNOWING ABOUT HISTORY TEACHING AND LEARNING
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"School history" has long since been characterized by teacher-centered lectures and student passivity, which deviates substantially from the inquiry-based and rigorous methodology historians use to actively reconstruct the past. While recent efforts have been made to move toward a more investigative approach in classrooms, little if any progress has been made beyond the superficial reading of primary source documents. When trying to understand why the disconnect between disciplinary approaches to history and school history continues, researchers have speculated that the knowledge bases, from which prospective teachers develop beliefs about the meaning and processes of history, are foundationally weak.
This study examines the influence of a college course designed to specifically address the teacher knowledge problem in history. Participant beliefs were targeted and intentionally challenged to elicit shifts toward more criterialist ways of knowing. It contributes to the literature on the teaching and learning of historical thinking as well as epistemic beliefs in history. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from participants over the course of one college semester through questionnaires, interviews, and coursework artifacts. Analysis was completed on two subscales: beliefs about history and beliefs about history teaching and learning.
Consistent with some previous studies, this research found that once surfaced, participant beliefs did begin to shift toward a more expert way of knowing following explicit instruction and practice with authentic disciplinary tasks. While beliefs about the knower, what can be known, and the procedural strategies necessary to create knowledge shifted at varying levels of consistency and stability, the shifts appeared to have an associative relationship often moving in concert rather than independently. Additionally, results indicate that participants whose initial beliefs were more stable made greater shifts toward criterialism suggesting that those who were able to spend less time understanding new ideas were able to spend more time thinking about how to take those ideas and put them into practice. Implications of this research raise questions about what teacher educators need to know in order to expertly prepare preservice history educators along with considerations for the content and instruction of teacher education programs.