Functions of History Education: History Teacher Trainees' Perspective

Article excerpt

History awareness, historical experience and thus history education is a basic reference point for adapting the ways in which individuals and societies perceive the future (Bruner, 1990; Fosnot, 1996; Kuhn, Cheney& Weinstock, 2000). Studies on history education in the developed countries have led to a teaching of history as a social science at schools in history courses. A close inspection of history programmes of the United Kingdom and the United States of America represents the teaching of historical events of their own countries as well as political, economic and social events of the past and recent history of the world. Countries consider the social policy of their governments and the philosophy these policies are based on when developing their teaching programmes (Charmaz, 2006. Evans, 1990; Iggers, 1997). The aim of history education is generally perceived as educating citizens by the society. However, such an aim is not feasible as regards the circumstances of the global world. Consequently history teaching programmes focus on how new history construction, conceptions and education ought to be (Marwick, 2001; National Research Council, 1996; Olafson & Schraw, 2006).

European countries acknowledge the importance of history education in bringing up conscious citizens in the process of sustaining the unity of their continent. In general history education has three main purposes: to maintain personal development of the learners, to help them socialise by conveying the cultural heritage and to be used as a tool for citizenship education. (Evans, 1990; Lee, 1983; Iggers, 1997). In a modern and developed Turkey, as a country which tries hard to join the European Union, it is crucial to specify history teacher trainees' understanding and perceptions of history education (Akinoglu, 2005; Doyle, 1997; Kagan, 1992; Schraw& Olafson, 2002). Therefore, the aim of this paper is to investigate and present the views and perspectives of history teacher trainees on the functions of history education.

Method

The study has a qualitative research design based on an exploration of history teacher trainees' perspectives through face: to-face semi-structured interviews (Patton, 2002).

Participants

The participants were 36 (16 male, 20 female) teacher trainees registered to the History Education masters degree (without dissertation), within the Secondary Education Social Sciences discipline at Ataturk Education Faculty, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey in the 2005-2006 academic year. The participants all held a history bachelor's degree from one of a variety of 15 different universities.

Data Collection Instruments

A total of 14 (6 semi-structured and 8 open-ended) questions were addressed to the participants (N=36) about the functions of history education in the context of bringing up citizens and the priorities of culture and history teaching. In addition to these questions, individual face-to-face interviews were conducted with 10 teacher trainees (5 female, 5 male). The interviews were re-administered with the same individuals a week later. Content validity of the interview questions were achieved by reviews of 5 experienced researchers. Reliability of the interviews was determined by the consistency between the results of initial interviews and repeated interviews.

Data Analysis

14 questions answered by the history teacher trainees were coded and some of the findings are exemplified in the next section. Other data is analysed and interpreted qualitatively.

Findings and Interpretation

History education is generally considered as an essential first step in the development of citizenship awareness. Individuals understand the stages leading to the present day by learning about the history of the country (Brickhouse, 1990; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). In modern and post-modern approaches, however, the fundamental purpose of history education is to focus on the development of a sense of contemporary identity. …