Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Developing Historical Consciousness and a Community of History Practitioners: A Survey of Prospective History Teachers across Canada/le Développement D'une Conscience Historique et D'une Communauté De Professionnels En Histoire : Enquête Auprès Des Futurs Professeurs D'histoire À Travers le Canada

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Education (Online)

Developing Historical Consciousness and a Community of History Practitioners: A Survey of Prospective History Teachers across Canada/le Développement D'une Conscience Historique et D'une Communauté De Professionnels En Histoire : Enquête Auprès Des Futurs Professeurs D'histoire À Travers le Canada

Article excerpt

The preparation of history teachers has been the subject of lively debates in Canada. Following the implementation of the new Québec History and Citizenship Education program in 2006, various commentators, including some historians, publicly lamented the "insufficient training of beginning teachers" (Coalition pour l'histoire, 2012; Lavallée, 2012), suggesting that they were merely "learning instructors" and "classroom managers" trained primarily in pedagogy, not in history or other disciplines (Gagné, 1999). Already in 1995, during the Estates General on Education, the Lacoursière Report (Groupe de travail sur l'enseignement de l'histoire, 1996) argued that "many of the problems in the area of history teaching are related to initial teacher training and are bound to become worse if reforms are not introduced" (p. 61). Similar criticism has been made elsewhere in Canada (see Osborne, 2003; Sandwell, 2012). For historian Jack Granatstein (1998), the educational focus on multiculturalism, whole-child development, and civic education has led to a generation of teachers who "scarcely teach history, so busy are they fighting racism, teaching sex education, or instructing English as a second language for recent immigrants" (p. 3). Throughout North America, teacher education has been decried publicly and put at the forefront of efforts at improving history teaching in schools. In doing so, some pundits have placed greater emphasis on the transfer of referential-type national narratives and content knowledge as a means of democratic integration, while others have stressed key discipline-based thinking dimensions for helping students develop autonomous perspectives on the past, albeit in well-informed and well-reasoned ways (Zanazanian & Moisan, 2012).

Within the parameters of such a tension, "it has [nonetheless] been more or less assumed," Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle observed, "that teachers who know more teach better" (as cited in Barton & Levstik, 2004, p. 245). But this statement begs asking: what does it mean to know more for history teachers? How is such knowledge gained? And to what ends does it serve history teachers? Traditionally, the idea of knowing more history was equated with the accumulation of content information that teachers were supposed to possess and transmit to their students, unrelated necessarily to knowledge about pedagogy. It was, however, precisely in light of such similar practices in the United States in the 1960s that led Lee Shulman to call for fostering his notion of "pedagogical content knowledge" among future teachers (Shulman 1986, 1987; Shulman & Quinlan 1996). Shulman (1987) argued that pedagogical content knowledge is of special interest "because it identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching... the category most likely to distinguish the understanding of the content specialist from that of the pedagogue" (p. 8). For him, competent teachers were those who had a thorough teaching knowledge base, which he represented graphically as the intersection between "content" and "pedagogy." Such knowledge bases make it possible for them to transform the content knowledge they possess "into forms that are pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variations in ability and background presented by the students" (Shulman, 1987, p. 15).

Facing these questions and larger public demands to properly teach history, teacher educators may find it challenging to help prospective teachers authen- tically articulate a voice, vision, and practice regarding the subject matter; ones where they would adequately harmonize history teaching's main social functions for shared content and historical literacy, while also developing the necessary mindsets and pedagogical tools for doing what they deem best for their students' personal and academic growth. As creative teacher educators may introduce such distinctive approaches to their teaching as inquiry-based learning and historical thinking (Lévesque, 2008; VanSledright, 2002), assuming and hoping that these would make their students better teachers, prospective teachers' own personal beliefs about pedagogy and history, and about epistemological and life understandings may all have a greater effect in the long-run (Adler, 2008; Barton & Levstik, 2004; van Hover & Yeager, 2007; VanSledright & Reddy, 2014). …

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