Understanding History for Teaching: A Study of the Historical Understanding of Prospective Teachers
G. Williamson Mcdiarmid Michigan State University
Current reform proposals and policies in teacher education are intended to increase the subject matter knowledge of prospective teachers. Reformers and policymakers assume that increasing the number of subject matter courses prospective teachers take and, concomitantly, decreasing the number of teacher education courses will result in teachers who know more about their subject matter for the purpose of teaching.
This assumption is largely unexamined. Despite years of research on student learning in college, researchers -- except for a few in the sciences and mathematics (see, for example, Arons, 1990; Champagne, Gunstone, & Klopfer, 1985; Clement, 1982; Clement, Lochhead, & Monk, 1981; Maestre & Lochhead, 1983; Maestre, Gerace, & Lochhead, 1982; McDermott, 1984; Schoenfeld, 1985) -- have paid little attention to the kinds of knowledge and understanding students develop in specific subject matters ( Ball, 1988; Holt, 1990). Scholars in the arts and science disciplines are rewarded for furthering knowledge in their fields, not for studying their students' learning and refining their pedagogy accordingly. Undoubtedly many individual arts and science instructors gather information on their students' learning, but few write about their experiences (exceptions include Booth, 1988; Elbow, 1986; Holt, 1990; Smith, 1990).
Much of the research on college-student learning has focused on general issues of cognition rather than on the development of knowledge and understanding of specific disciplines ( Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Recently, some psychologists have treated history as more than merely a venue for investigating cognition and have attended to issues of teaching and learning history in classrooms. This research, however, has been carried out