Call for best practices: Global dimensions of national history and postcolonial history

Andreas Holtberget EUROCLIO , ,

EuroClio is looking for teaching practices centred around global perspectives of national history and postcolonial history. The practice collection is part of the project Critical History, led by the University of Tallinn in partnership with three other European universities.

Global dimensions of history are indispensable for the teaching of history in the 21st century.  The crucial challenges of our time, including the changing role of the nation state, digitalization and the worldwide internet, growing socio-economic inequality, migration movements as well as the climate crisis, have - whilst of a global nature - clear and tangible local impacts.

Traditional history education, centered around national history and its narrower contexts, can hardly adequately reflect these local-global complexities of today's globalised world. Identifying teaching practices in this field will therefore be an important step in inspiring colleagues to include such global dimensions in their own (national) history teaching and we hope you can help us!

Do you have a teaching practice to share that tackles these local-global complexities? That illustrates global perspectives with the history of your own country/region/nation as a starting point? As opposed to treating ‘national history’ and ‘world history’ as something apart and unrelated? 

We are looking for practices that are low-cost and easy to replicate. Please contact Birgit Göbel (secretariat@euroclio.eu) with a short description of your teaching practice and we will reach out to you to set up a brief interview. 

The collected practices will be made available on the EuroClio website in a blog format, with a selected number also included in a study guide published at the end of our project. Due credit will always be given to the interviewee. The overall aim of the Critical History project is to prepare future history teachers for a critical history education more attuned to the realities of 21st century societies.  Identifying good teaching practices will be crucial for the success of our project and we thank you in advance for sharing your ideas with us.

How to bring heritage to the classroom: A teaching practice from Belgium

By Joris Van Doorsselaere

Joris Van Doorsselaere has been a history teacher since 2011 and he is doing a doctoral dissertation at the University of Ghent investigating how cultural heritage relates to history education in Flanders, developing a didactical framework and good practices. Last April, he tried the following teaching practice as a first attempt to bring the concept of heritage, and as it surrounds students in their everyday life, more explicitly into his classroom.

As heritage is conceptualised rather implicitly in the curriculum framework, this activity seeks to introduce the concept to students and make them understand the difference between heritage and history. With it, not only history is addressed, but also the value of the past and the emotions that different monuments or figures provoke.

“Heritage is not an important part of the curriculum explicitly, but there are certainly opportunities for it. I think it can make the curriculum more relevant for students. That is the reason why I wanted to find a way to introduce the concept of heritage to children.”

To exemplify this teaching practice, he introduced us to the case of Gravensteen Castle, in Ghent.

Joris used this example in his class in the wake of a controversy over the Council's intention to adapt the castle. The aim was to add a tourist office and an elevator to make the entrance more accessible. Given this proposal, an important social debate was instigated about whether ancient monuments should be adapted to modern needs.

Although the castle is located about 25km from where most of the students live, they indicated in advance they had no strong connection with it. However, debates about heritage in the present can help students understand why other people attribute meaning to certain aspects of the past. Therefore, the students were introduced to comments on social media that citizens of Ghent made regarding the plans to adapt the castle. These remarks were quite fierce, thus making the students aware that, for other people, the building is more than just a meaningless remnant of the past.

 

The method used is as follows: First, the case was introduced to the students and acted as a concluding part of a lesson series about the middle ages, where the students ought to reflect on the relationship between past, present and future. It began by investigating the context of the monument and some historical questions were raised, while the students were provided with clear instructions, and an online database wherein pictures could be found that prove that the monument was previously used for different purposes, and in fact, is not exactly a medieval building as it underwent different adaptations after the middle ages. Then, the students made a timeline - from the construction and the adaptations it has gone through - to the current situation.

Besides the assignment considering this historical dimension, the situation in the present was investigated. The students were provided with recent news articles from which different perspectives on the renovation could be filtered. The Articles were read - with arguments for and against - and the different opposing voices, such as architects, civil movements, the City Council or historians, are placed on a continuum. Subsequently, they made a one minute video (pitch)  explaining their opinion individually. Finally, the students also placed themselves in these debates to see the different opinions that they and their classmates have.

APPLYING THIS TEACHING PRACTICE:

The students in whom this practice has been tried are between 14 and 15 years old, and have practically no prior notion of the concept of heritage, as the pre-test indicated. For this activity, they are divided in groups – in this case, in a class of 10 students, they were divided into 3 groups.

The duration of this practice is 2 or 3 lessons.  If you consider it necessary, you can also do a previous class to explain the concept of heritage. Otherwise, you can start with a short introduction asking students about “what is heritage”, and then move on to the historical context and use a second class for the present and multiperspective part. Since the case still has some limitations to serve as a good practice, Joris plans to repeat this practice in the coming schoolyears in order to finetune the assignment, because in the Flanders’ curriculum, the concept of multiperspectivity is quite fundamental.

These lessons can be done both online and offline. He has tried it online, and the only necessary equipment would be a computer per group – so the students can enter the database to see the information and images. However, it is also possible to do this activity outside the classroom, taking the students to the monument itself.

ADVANTAGES:

This teaching practice is:

  • Easy to transfer to other cases and cities. It can be a castle, a new purpose for a church,  a reconversion of a  factory site, or monuments that can be found in any European city.
  • Easy to transfer to other teachers. This could be done through a shared database with other teachers on a national level or even a wider scope. 
  • Low cost, as it does not require investment, and it can be done without leaving the classroom itself  (avoiding transport costs).
  • It does not require advanced technological equipment.
  • It can be done both online and offline.

LIMITATIONS:

  • It can be a complex activity in classes with many students.
  • It requires having one computer per group so that students can access the database.
  • In some cases, it is difficult for students to know how to use a database or find the information / images they need. 
  • Make the search for information interesting and attractive: The collection of newspaper articles on social debate may seem difficult to understand or unattractive to students. A solution could be to adapt the articles so that the vocabulary is simpler and more appealing.

“Most of the time, heritage is approached as contested but I also want to approach it as something that unites, using local or small-scale  traces of the past that students feel connected with.”

Ultimately, this activity aims for the student to understand what “heritage” means and how it differs from the concept of history, as well as to be aware of the transformations that these remnants have undergone over time.

* The information presented in this blog post is extracted from an interview between Joris Van Doorsselaere, Andreas Holtberget, and Adriana Fuertes Palomares as part of the Critical History project and the collection of best teaching practices on heritage education, and which took place on July 1, 2021 in an online format.

Source image: Gravensteen Castle (Ghent). Image by Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29026605

 

Seminar on heritage in history education

Organised in partnership with EuroClio for our joint Critical History project, the University of Tallinn invites to a three-day online seminar on heritage in history education. The seminar is open to the general public and target students at teacher trainer colleges, practicing teachers and other educators interested in using heritage as part of history education. The seminar will be organised on Zoom with morning and afternoon sessions and is free of charge benefiting from funding from the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.


Programme

Thursday 8 July

09:30-11:30 CEST - Public History & Heritage Education by Joanna Wojdon, Associate Professor at the Department of Methodology of Teaching History and Civic Education, Institute of History, University of Wrocław

14:00-15:30 CEST - Things are more than just dead things. Using heritage to enhance historical thinking by Dr. Maria Grever, professor em. Theory and Methodology of History and founding director of the Center for Historical Culture at Erasmus School of History, Culture & Communication (ESHCC).

Friday 9 July

09:30-11:30 CEST - Integrating digital cultural heritage by José Ramón González Quelle & Rafael Montero

14:00-16:00 CEST - Bringing local history to life (presenting project Meetup-Meierijstad) by Hellen Janssen, History teacher and Board Member VGN Kleio

Saturday 10 July

09:30-11:30 CEST - Introducing Emotion Networking (Case: Food as heritage) by Jonathan Even-Zohar, Reinwardt Academy

14:00-16:00 CEST - Everyday life as a part of heritage on the example of food culture by Dr. Anu Kannike, Estonian National Museum

 

 

Call for teaching practices: Heritage and history education

EuroClio is looking for teaching practices that enable students to attain historical competences through the lens of heritage. The practice collection is part of the project Critical History, led by the University of Tallinn in partnership with three other European universities. Current discussions on heritage, and what we as a society choose to remember, cherish or commemorate, does not only help students learn about the past, it also forces them to think about the present and the kind of society we wish to live in. Identifying teaching practices in this field will be an important step in  inspiring colleagues from across Europe and beyond to include heritage in their own history teaching and we hope you can help us!

Do you have a practice to share related to heritage in history education? Perhaps widening the learning environment outside of the classroom? Examples include teaching practices that aim to ‘bring history alive’ offering possibilities for students to experience and connect with history through tangible representations of the past, such as statues, monuments or artwork in the public space. 

We are looking for practices that are low-cost and easy to replicate. Please contact Adriana Fuertes (secretariat@euroclio.eu) with a short description of your teaching practice and we will reach out to you to set up a brief interview. 

The collected practices will be made available on the EuroClio website in a blog format, with a selected number also included in a study guide published at the end of our project. Due credit will always be given to the interviewee. The overall aim of the Critical History project is to prepare future history teachers for a critical history education more attuned to the realities of 21st century societies.  Identifying good teaching practices will be crucial for the success of our project and we thank you in advance for sharing your ideas with us.

[PARTNER] Critical History

About the Project

Recent years have seen profound societal changes across Europe. The rise of the internet has given students and teachers easier access to information, fundamentally altering the way in which we learn about both current and past events. At the same time, disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories increasingly find their way into classrooms.

The frequent use of history in the public sphere, including in films, games and fiction that youth consume similarly provide educators with both opportunities and challenges. While students may arrive at school with preconceived ideas about history that have little root in research, there are also opportunities to engage them in topics they care about. Teachers must therefore be up to the task of recognising biases and challenging assumptions, all while encouraging their students to critically reflect on what they see, read and hear. Current discussions on heritage, and what we as a society choose to remember, cherish or commemorate, does not only help students learn about the past, it also forces them to think about the present and the kind of society we wish to live in.

European classrooms have over time become increasingly diverse. Still, most curricula remain centred on traditional, nation-centric narratives that are neither equipped for, nor reflective of, this new diversity present across our continent.

The aim of this project is therefore to prepare future history teachers for a critical history education more attuned to the realities of 21st century societies. Through an updated critical history education, pupils across Europe will be provided the critical thinking skills required for active citizenship in democratic and pluralistic societies.

Project Aims & Outcomes

  • Field analysis, including a literature review and a collection of practices;
  • A study guide, with learning activities and teaching methods and tools on four topics in English, Estonian, German, Polish and Spanish:
    • Heritage in history education (Tallinn University),
    • Global dimensions of national history and post-colonial history (Augsburg University),
    • Public history and history education (Wroclaw University),
    • The role and influence of the internet in history education (Salamanca University);
  • Professional development and professional networking of the people who are actively involved in the project;
  • Closer working relations between various professional organisations in the field of history education, such as the International Society for History Didactics (ISHD), EuroClio, the International Federation for Public History (IFPH) and the History Educators International Research Network (HEIRNET).

Team Members

Project Managers:

  • Steven Stegers, Executive Director EuroClio
  • Andreas Holtberget, Project Manager EuroClio
  • Mare Oja (Tallinn University, project lead)
  • Kerstin Liiva (Tallinn University, project lead)
  • Joanna Wojdon (University of Wrocław)
  • Antón Seoane Pardo (University of Salamanca)
  • Valentina Zangrando (University of Salamanca)
  • Susanne Popp (Augsburg University)

Donors

The project will be implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The Project (2020-1-EE01-KA201-077997) is taking place September 2020 - September 2023.

Project Members