ABSTRACT : TEACHING HISTORY TO K12 KIDS: REFLECTIONS BASED ON A LARGE SCALE RESEARCH PROJECT
When submitted to trivia tests, kids seem to know very little about the past of their community (nation). I decided to look at the situation a different way in asking two broad questions to about 5000 different young people, during a period of ten years, when they were in the classroom: 1) « Tell me the history of Quebec as you know »; 2) « If you had to summarize the history of Quebec in a phrase, what would you write personally? » Analysing the corpus shows two things: 1) kids know more about the past of their community (nation) than we think they do; 2) what they know is as powerful as it is simplistic. So the question: How to teach history to kids in the context they are not empty pots but have a very strong prior knowledge?
First step is to assess knowledge kids possess… to discover that it’s very much rooted in their community’s mythistories (I shall define that concept in my talk). Second is to create a cognitive conflict with kid’s prior knowledge so they are challenged in their historical representations. Third is to provide kids with alternative historical knowledge structured in the form of “catchy” ideas (so they may remember something of what is taught to them), knowledge also focused on their community’s mythistories (in order to have them distancing from the common premises upon which their culture is constructed, so they study history with a purpose, which is a good inducement to develop their learning interest). o In the paper each point will be detailed and backed with arguments. The aim of the talk is not to go against historical thinking theory but to adjust the basics of this theory with the general context into which kids learn (and use that knowledge to live efficiently in complex social settings).
• J. Létourneau, Je me souviens ? Le passé du Québec dans la conscience historique de sa jeunesse, Montreal, Fides, 2014.
• J. Létourneau, “Teaching National History to Young People Today”, in Mario Carretero, Stefan Berger & Maria Grever (eds.), International Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education. Hybrid Ways of Learning History, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. [To be published].
• J. Létourneau, S. Lévesque & R. Gani, “A Giant with Clay Feet: Quebec Students and the Historical Consciousness of the Nation”, International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 11, 2 (May 2013), p. 159-175.