Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Views of Omani Social Studies Teachers about Using Oral History in the Classroom

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Views of Omani Social Studies Teachers about Using Oral History in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the views of Omani social studies teachers about using oral history in the classroom. Data was collected using a questionnaire that was distributed to 315 randomly selected social studies teachers from urban and rural areas, with 135 male and 180 female teachers included in the study. The results showed that social studies teachers believe strongly in the importance of oral history in the classroom and think that it can be applied in several ways. Teachers also believe, however, that there are a number of obstacles to the use of oral history in Omani schools and they suggest, first, that teachers should be given training to overcome these, and second, that the social studies curriculum be developed so that it will be easier to include oral history in the courses. The survey also revealed that teachers' views are affected by their gender and experience, with female and older teachers believing more strongly in the importance of oral history than male and younger teachers.

Keywords: views, oral history, social studies teachers, Oman

1. Introduction

Social studies teachers in many countries face difficulties when trying to develop students' understanding of life and events in the past. These difficulties arise from a number of factors: the ambiguity of the past, the gap between the past and the present, the shortage of information about some aspects of the past, the subjectivity of history and students' difficulties in relating the past to their own lives or that of their country. These difficulties often lead students to see history as dull, lifeless, meaningless, backward and useless, a belief which has a negative effect on their attitudes towards studying the subject (Eric, Samson, & Mueni, 2013; Kiio, 1999). Indeed, this negativity can be seen in Oman in the fact that history is not a popular subject choice among school students (Al-Kharousi, 2014; Ministry of Education, 2014).

One way to change this negative attitude toward history is to bring it to life through using oral history, where students will participate in writing history and come to value it because of their interaction with those who actually inhabited past events. Definitions of oral history make this evident. Fogerty (2001, p. 102), for example, defines it as "a structured conversation between two people - an interviewer pursuing a carefully defined line of inquiry, and a narrator with information that interviewer seeks to acquire". Shopes (2005) gives a similar definition: oral history is a "self-conscious, disciplined conversation between two people about some aspect of the past considered by them to be of historical significance and intentionally recorded for the record".

The use of oral history methodology to preserve the past was first developed into an academic program by Allan Nevins at Columbia University (Nevins, 1966). The methodology is now widely used in the school classroom to develop students' knowledge, attitudes, values and beliefs about the past and also to train students to write history for themselves. Oral history also enables students to develop such skills as communication, interviewing, recording, analyzing and documenting.

According to a number of writers (Ross, 1998; Bass & Rosenzweig, 1999; Wineburg, 2001; Ellis & Bruckman, 2002), the use of oral history in the classroom helps students to engage in "doing history" because they themselves gather information and rewrite it, a process which helps them to understand the vast difference between the past and the present (Lowenthal, 1985). It also helps them to understand the interaction between people and their environments and also the effect of social and political issues on the development of life at a local and global level (Yow, 1994; O'Hanlon & Brookover, 2000; Moody,2002).

Oral history also focuses on the human and empathetic aspect of historical events, thus allowing students to understand these events from the point of view of the people who inhabited them. …

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