Participants’ pedagogic disturbance and decisions to problematise history pedagogy.
How might teacher education engage pre-service teachers with unfamiliar voices and historical representation in an age of diversity, and view history as a critical project for young citizens? This context is situated in an Aotearoa New Zealand university’s initial teacher education (ITE) secondary programme. As a history educator, I negotiate multiple sites’ cultural practices and legacies of doing and being. I juggle professional, curriculum and assessment discursive practices and teachers’ certainties about their history programmes. This involves history theorising, scholarship and expectations. Tensions exist in relation to ‘sacred’ history contexts and knowledge claims embedded in curriculum and assessment standards that act to lessen possibilities of critical approaches. Critical pedagogy informs my stance that young citizens need to be confident and informed about their identity/ies and lived pasts to question what counts as knowledge and in whose interests this knowledge serves. Problematised history pedagogy (PHP) research aimed to disrupt pre-service teachers’ normative discourses. Emergent findings have subsequently shaped my history programme’s pedagogic approaches and evidence-informed assessment. Recent scholarly and public interest in histories that ‘play out’ in Aotearoa New Zealand’s present, serve to refocus history in ITE and schooling spaces to disrupt pedagogic certainties and exclusive notions of citizenship.
- critical pedagogy
In this chapter, I reflect on my history pedagogy in a secondary ITE programme, and on ways a critical stance reimagined school history’s curriculum intent, pedagogies and outcomes for informed future-oriented young citizens. The backdrop of Aotearoa New Zealand’s society is introduced to indicate that citizen students and teachers move across a diversity of real and imagined ‘lifeworlds’ (, p. 176). Dynamic socio-historical forces are forging educational change in Aotearoa. Intercultural relationships and the centrality of Te Tiriti o Waitangi1 influence ITE and school history’s contextual and practice decision-making. Māori history is being introduced into the schooling curriculum as a foundational continuity of Aotearoa New Zealand histories. Secondary history education is positioned alongside discursive cultures and practices of the academy, public histories and professional, curriculum and assessment policy’ standardisation. Accordingly, as a teacher educator, I am pulled all ways in relation to history education’s identity, purpose, pedagogies and production .
Personal theorising of history and an awareness of curriculum and assessment discourses have disturbed my practice and shaped my critical pedagogy stance. Consequently, I have sought to disrupt pre-service teachers’ conceptual certainties about the nature and purpose of history and the school history curriculum within my teacher education work. I view the notion of ‘certainties’ as the reproduction of history education approaches whereby custom and practice pedagogies, teacher preferences and certitude, act to reproduce familiar contexts, narratives and voices. I reflect on a Problematised History Pedagogy (PHP) intervention designed and implemented within doctoral narrative research. The PHP explored how problematising history curriculum and pedagogy in history teacher education engaged self-fashioning of teaching identities, history conceptions, and reimagining’s of curriculum as discursive practice . The PHP research design and a Dismantling Analysis (DA) method are introduced as a critical pedagogy approach. Aspects of the PHP findings are glimpsed through the pre-service history teachers as research participants’ voices. The PHP research processes and findings continue to inform my teacher education with pre-service history teachers, and I discuss history pedagogy in relation to young people’s lived citizenships.
2. Backdrop: Aotearoa New Zealand society and citizenship
The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi enabled Britain to establish sovereignty over New Zealand, legalise British subjects, and secure the economic benefits of imperialism. The Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti o Waitangi illuminate language and values-based culturally encoded interpretations of sovereignty, and ways indigenous Māori were merged with British subjects by Treaty article. For Māori, colonising processes brought marginalised political representation, land loss, social and economic neglect and indifference for Treaty rights. Māori have never ceased to resist or to seek redress for breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi - viewed as a sacred covenant with the British Crown. The relationship between indigenous Māori and Pākeha settlers is a central feature of subjecthood and citizenship in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history of colonisation and recent decolonising processes. Ongoing migration has been a significant feature of citizenship and identity shaping of the governance of the settler state and of increasing cultural diversity . The Royal Society of New Zealand’s census findings show that Aotearoa New Zealand is increasingly a country with multiple cultural identities, languages and values, and that one in four people living in New Zealand in 2013 were born in a diversity of places elsewhere than New Zealand. The report states:
“The most important example of ‘diversity’ may be in the range of ideas about what is represented and what is valued. A longstanding and deep-seated desire on behalf of the majority community to identify as New Zealanders with a single set of values and practices will be even less apt than in the past” (, p. 3).
Citizenship as an ideal will need to reflect this increasing diversity in relation to legal rights and political freedoms and choice, forms of economic and social equality, and identity and belonging. This may manifest as being community or service-minded, participation in clubs and societies, issues-based social action and/or global and digital awareness. Whilst citizenship assumes a body of common political knowledge , conceptions of ‘multiple citizenships’ challenge unitary citizenship ideals and politically focused citizen envisioning. Accordingly, identity is perceived in relation to a range of affiliations including national, cultural, religious, indigenous, ethnic and political and globalising processes, and citizenship is re-evaluated as an identity tied to the nation state [7, 8]. The cultural theorist James Banks interrogated liberal, assimilationist, and universal conceptions of citizenship in seeking cultural rights for citizens of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and languages . Feminist and indigenous scholars have challenged assumptions of citizenship as unitary and inclusive sources of identity and belonging.2 Debates about Article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti of Waitangi texts have considered the rights of citizenship, and whether Article 3 guarantees Māori equal opportunities or outcomes. Māori tikanga regulates ‘belonging’ and citizenship in Te Ao Māori3,4.
Citizenship in practice is a powerful cultural construct shaped by dominant groups’ values and beliefs about who might identify and belong as a New Zealander. Pearson  has conceived citizenship as double-edged, reflecting norms of inclusion and exclusion, and ideals of belonging voiced by those with the power to express and action ideals. This calls into question nostalgic and prevailing beliefs in Aotearoa New Zealand; that we are good at human rights. Findings of a study about New Zealand’s signing of six major human rights treaties since the 1970s and alignments with issues in contemporary society were reported in ‘Fault Lines: Human Rights in New Zealand’ . It was found that New Zealand was slipping behind in relation to child poverty, gender equality, systemic disadvantage of Māori, and the rights of disabled people to challenge the state. Citizenship is contested, whereby Pākehā5 are one cultural group among many. Citizenship also presents an open space that values diversity and lived citizenships. Researchers Kallio, Wood, and Häkli offer a critical explanation of ‘lived citizenship’:
“…lived citizenship refers to issue-focused, relational and motivated political agency which involves specific orientation, reflexivity or intentionality. These non-essentialist criteria are intended to unsettle dominant notions of the citizen and to recognise the deeply varied experience of being a citizen – especially providing space for the inclusion of those traditionally excluded from the status and esteem of citizenship” (, p. 724).
In the context of disrupting certainties in history education, my reference to ‘lived citizenships’ aligns with schools’ history students’ diversity, embodied crossings of lifeworlds, and sense of belonging and agency.
3. Complex crossings: history in initial teacher education
In Aotearoa, history education is filtered through national curriculum and assessment policies and the teaching profession’s code of standards.6 University compliances around digital and online teaching systems, standardised outlines and performance-based research funded outputs also influence the design of teacher education curricula. History papers offered in universities constitute degree specialisms for the teaching of history in the senior years (11–13) of the secondary schooling curriculum. Depending on paper selection and the visions of academic historians, undergraduates engage with a range of historical approaches and discourses including for example, scholar traditional, social reconstructionist, indigenous, interdisciplinary. Pre-service teachers generally enter ITE with history offerings that may not connect with history contexts for study in senior secondary classrooms. Consequently pre-service history teachers fall back on traditional history contexts and approaches they experienced at school. Research findings that focused on teacher perceptions of ‘their’ history curriculum  indicated that within five years of teaching, history teachers had assimilated into cultures of school history that maintained certainty about claims to knowledge and perpetuated familiar contexts for assessment purposes. This finding confronted my pedagogy in ITE to activate critique.
The national curriculum policy  and qualifications frameworks  position history in the Social Sciences Learning Area. Whilst historical contexts, ideas, and skills can be developed in social studies programmes through all primary and secondary school years (1–13), history is taught as an optional subject specialism through Years 11–13 in the senior school. This is dependent on staffing expertise and capacity. In 2020 history education is positioned in competition with social sciences curricula offered in the senior school (E.g. sociology, psychology, education for sustainability, legal studies, business studies, tourism). However, students choose history because of an interest developed through junior secondary social studies, ‘cool teachers’, curiosity about histories that support hobbies, or through a sense of historical consciousness  that permeates daily lives.
3.1 Curriculum, policy and disturbance
My professional work in social sciences and history teacher education has involved contractual work for national curriculum and assessment developments. However, during the review and revision of the national curriculum (2007) I recognised my complicity with neo-liberal discourses of curriculum7 and grew increasingly disturbed with my pedagogy that provided little space for questioning why we do the things we do in history curriculum across ITE and schooling sites? Standards-based curriculum objectives could not be left unquestioned, particularly as the revised national curriculum developments  represented a shift back to a traditional and neo-conservative envisioning of the history curriculum. A default kind of curriculum was introduced by levels of history achievement standards for national certificates’ qualifications . Despite opportunities for teachers to introduce unfamiliar contexts into history programmes, the history achievement standards’ guidance for teachers indicate ‘sacred’  custom and practice teacher choices of historical content. Commmonly, teachers’ topic preferences focus on histories from Pākeha colonial perspectives, twentieth century theatres of war through discourses of sacrifice and nationhood, exclusive gendered experiences peppered with the ‘odd’ woman worthy. Despite standards-oriented possibilities to engage young people with historical inquiry, perspectives and source interpretation, curriculum objectives, assessment standards and contexts for study reflect a ‘history as progress’ discourse that serves to preserve normalised discourses of historical inquiry. Substantive content-based pedagogy is generally produced at the expense of the ‘hows’ of history. More troubling is the minimisation of the nature, purpose and ‘whys’ of history education. Standards shape historical ‘knowing’ in powerful ways . However, there needs to be more to history in teacher education than reproducing standards’ outcomes from custom and practice uncritiqued pedagogy. In the following section, I recount my conceptions of history that have developed through research as a reflection of teaching selves, and as a response to potentially volatile moments of cultural production (, p. 5).
4. Conceptualising teaching selves, history and pedagogy
In my search for spaces of professional and academic negotiation in a university environment, discourses of critical social reconstruction and feminist and postmodern assumptions shape the educational selves I choose to embody and voice. I conceive teaching identities as multiple “…found in culture and thereby discursively produced and legitimated” (, p. 153). Teacher selves are revealed in power relations, gendered expectations, and learners’ assumptions (, p. 72). These selves are based on the “… immense significance of actual people and places, as real, as memory, imagination and desire in the formation of selfhood in teaching and learning”(, p. 183). Despite the limitations of policy and structural arrangements and established cultures of school history, pedagogy in ITE can open spaces to reflect on why we do the things we do in light of our identities, and the selves we choose to be.
In this time of diversity and uncertainty, a questioning of knowledge claims shapes personal and professional history theorising. The notion of disturbance resonates with my history education work. It is in the observation of lived experiences of the past and the performative moments of disturbance and change, that dialogue can be activated between the past and present. Jenkins  argues that history be understood as a post epistemological aesthetic discourse as infinite refigurings and multiple meanings. Deconstructive histories bring into view previously discounted, unseen and unheard voices of the past. Research brings new inquiries and meanings, and historical narrative gets personal to reveal the historian’s voice. Brown offers a helpful explanation of historical narratives that disturb grand narratives and authoritative claims to history:
“A historian may deploy references to historical events in his/her narrative that are verifiably true, but her/his discourse is about selecting and bundling references to events of his/her choice into a periodised and boundaried-off interpretive narrative defined by her/him, that as a whole is invariably untestable. It is this narrative that is the real end product of the History profession, and if its constituent ‘small’ facts may be verifiable, the thing as a whole is fictive in form …” (, p. 171).
An exciting dimension of historical inquiry is when the nature, purpose and the ‘doings’ of history are emphasised. Rosenstone, a historian of film genre comments that history matters – that it needs to be meaningful:
“We must tell stories about the past that matter not just to us: we must make them matter to the larger culture. We must paint, write, film, hip hop and rap the past in a way that makes the tragedies and joys of the human voyage meaningful to the contemporary world” (, p. 17).
The historian’s motivations and uncovering of voices and silences, opens possibilities for curriculum history. Likewise, representation of lived pasts through a variety of literacies, media, and digital tools brings opportunity for new questions and meaning making to savvy citizen learners. This means pedagogic approaches may include access to sources of evidence of unfamiliar place-based pasts, multiple voices and human agency. Pedagogy involves a relational dialogic  that activates knowing and learning, and pedagogies are constructed to take material and social form. Mulcahy suggested pedagogy be viewed as an “emergent property or product of ‘intra-action’ among persons, places, processes and things” (, p. 57). I reflect pedagogies as connecting four key dimensions as: the immense significance of people’s identities and situatedness; relationships; embodiment and seeking of authentic selves; knowledge claims related to socio-historical, cultural, structural and material production of meaning. My growing disturbance with un-critiqued school history activated critical pedagogy research that I designed as problematised history pedagogy (PHP) . The desire to mitigate powerful relations in classes and enable pre-service teachers to challenge exclusive historical representations, motivated me. Curriculum and pedagogic disturbance, reflexivity and resistance shaped my critical pedagogy as research within teacher education.
5. Critical pedagogy: problematised history pedagogy as research
Critical pedagogies involve “understandings and critique of hegemony and power as an organising force in education” (, p. 78) to ask questions of the politics of curriculum through reflexive action. Influential cultural theorists have influenced my pedagogic stance. Henry Giroux and the late Joe Kincheloe have viewed teachers as intellectuals who understand power relations and the impacts of their pedagogies for self, society and cultures.8 When applied to history curriculum, critical pedagogy demands that we question what counts as history knowledge; whose interests this knowledge serves, and how curriculum and assessment as discursive production serve to legitimise existing forms of historical knowledge?
5.1 The PHP research design as a ‘System of Meaning’
The PHP research as a ‘System of Meaning’  was nested and constructed within my doctoral critical pedagogy methodology: ‘Problematised History Pedagogy as Narrative Research: Self Fashioning, Dismantled Voices and Reimaginings in History Education’ . The wider narrative research methodology’s question set the scene: “How does problematising history curriculum and pedagogy in teacher education engage self fashioning of teaching identities, history conceptions, and reimagining of curriculum as discursive practice”? (, p. 1). Three further questions emerged to deconstruct this guiding question, and to create an original dismantling analysis method. These questions applied to self-reflexivity, engagement with problematised pedagogy, and evaluation of critical pedagogy and emergent pedagogic spaces (, p. 123).
The PHP involved my history class’ ten participants in fashioning teaching identities, identifying personal narrative stances, and thinking critically about activating and reflecting on history pedagogy in classrooms. The PHP research was implemented over a year within my secondary GradDipT year’s history programme in ITE . The participants as history graduates from a range of Aotearoa New Zealand universities, brought their conceptions of history, lived experiences, and school to university – back to the classroom contextual preferences and knowledge to the class programme. The PHP research design drew on the late Joe Kincheloe’s thinking about critical pedagogy to shape a coherent ‘system of meaning’ (, pp. 224–225).
Figure 1: ‘Problematised History Pedagogy as a System of Meaning and Dismantling Analysis’ indicates the research design’s aim for coherence in relation to questions, processes, analysis, and its reciprocal layering within my wider methodology of critical pedagogy as narrative research. The PHP embedded three processes that I adapted from Joe Kincheloe’s critical action and reflexive research processes (, p. 224–225) namely: Phenomenological Empathy; Genealogical Disclosure; Discursive Self-Fashioning.
Phenomenological Empathy elicited evidence of the participant’s values and reflexivity through the history class’ ongoing journal writing, critical discourse analysis of a self-selected history text and post teaching experience conversations.
Genealogical Disclosure initiated participants’ life-storying, socio-historicising of self-texts, and individual’s private and professional theorising of the nature and purpose of history in the senior school curriculum.
Discursive Self-Fashioning involved participants in designing, implementing and critiquing sequences of their own problematised history pedagogy with history classes whilst on their second practicum. This involved teacher identity work, and formative stages of engaging with curriculum and pedagogy as pre-service history teachers.
The research processes constituted both on-campus class (56 hours) and practicum experiences (14 weeks) of activities interspersed throughout my programme of history pedagogy through February–November. The PHP timetabling was indicated within the paper outline, along with detailed guidance for the life-storying, critical discourse analysis (CDA) of a self-selected text, and participant’s planned and implemented sequences of PHP. By mid-April participants had completed their life histories as self-storied accounts; by mid-July the critical discourse analysis (CDA) of self-selected curriculum history texts was complete. Over the second teaching experience (August–September) class members designed, planned, facilitated, and evaluated a sequence of PHP (3 teaching episodes) in senior secondary history classrooms in response to their own pedagogic disturbance. These evidence-based processes were shared through the year in our history class, and are presented as PHP case studies in the wider narrative research . Participants’ journal writing, and their experiences of research processes were regularly shared and discussed during our history class pedagogy. None of the research processes was designed for, or used for assessment purpose. To meet coursework outcomes within the secondary teacher education programme, participants completed three assessment items that were not part of the PHP research. Accordingly, an external examiner assessed this assignment work.
5.2 The PHP dismantling analysis method
A Dismantling Analysis (DA) resonated with my history and social sciences theorising and practice, and aligned with critical gazes within the wider narrative research methodology. Deborah Britzman’s thinking about ways postmodern thinking expands the range of available interpretive schemes to make possible readings of cultural texts influenced my decision about a method of analysis and interpretation . I sought deconstructive and interpretive purpose to identify contradictions, normalised discourses, disturbances, and resistances in the participants’ PHP research processes. The notion of ‘mantle’ embodies ideas of expertise, identity, validation, knowledge, wisdom, and authority. However, in the DA, I conceptualised the idea of ‘mantle’ in critical ways: Hence ‘mantle’ symbolised a curriculum boundary, was viewed as a layer of hegemony, represented powerful discourse, acknowledged as a cloaked and weighty tradition and as essentialist notions (, pp. 133–134). The DA involved recursive interpretive work to unravel participants’ private and professional theorising of history and curriculum representation, pedagogic identities, conceptions of pedagogy, and critique of history as cultural texts. Figure 1: ‘Problematised History Pedagogy as a System of Meaning and Dismantling Analysis’ indicates the three research processes and indicators of participants’ activities that generated evidence collection beyond their reflective journaling. Six themes are identified from the PHP system of meaning, and their indicators assisted data organisation, and the deconstruction and interpretation of participants’ thinking and actions as pre-service history teachers. Interwoven themes were loosely identified as: Private and professional theorising of history; Pedagogic identities; Conceptions of history pedagogy; Conceptions of history curriculum; PHP as cultural texts; Historical representation.
The ethical challenges of embedding research within my history coursework required careful consideration in the research design. Halse and Honey  discuss the power politics that are in play with research. A key issue was that the PHP was embedded in my year’s history course, and identity positioning and conflicts of interest needed to be made clear and minimised wherever possible. The research ethics served as a cautionary reminder of the vulnerability of the pre-service history teachers and of my interpretive authority.
6. Participants PHP and emergent findings
The history class comprised ten pre-service teacher participants – eight women and two men mostly aged in their twenties with the exception of two women in their 30s, and a woman aged 51. One participant identified as Māori, and two participants identified biculturally as Māori and Pākeha. Seven class members identified as Pākeha or New Zealand European. All but two class members had experienced school history in their senior secondary years. Each participant brought a variety of history papers combined with social sciences or English papers to their degree qualification/s. Three participants had knowledge of research methods of history, and only five had explored political or cultural aspects of Aotearoa New Zealand histories. The participants’ research processes were produced within planned and identifiable history education contexts, and a collective sense of purpose. However, the PHP did not seek uniform conceptions of self, history thinking, or pedagogy. In my narrative research I attempted to evoke something of the participants’ selves and dispositions as heartbeats pulsed underneath the PHP research processes. This was textured through my professional knowledge of each individual formed through class pedagogy, practicum observations, dialogue, and the relationships we formed. Aspects of emergent PHP findings are discussed as follows in relation to participants’ Private history theorising; Pedagogic identities; Threshold experiences with school history curriculum and pedagogy; Public and accountable discursive practice. Participants’ visibility is included here through glimpses of their voices as evidenced by texts generated by the PHP research processes.
6.1 Private history theorising
Participants’ genealogical disclosure evidenced in reflective journal writing and autobiographical life-storying generally conceptualised history as living in the past. A discourse of connectedness to the lived experience of the past dominated the class’ historical thinking. Family traditions, heritages of shared values through myths, folklore, stories of heroic deeds, and links to ancestors recollected cultural experiences, values and temporality. A strong discourse of memory and nostalgia permeated participants thinking about connectedness to lived experience. ‘Nostalgia’s’ meaning derives from the Greek nostos (returning home) and algia (pain or distress). This embraces feelings about a disappearing past, temporal dislocation, imagined places and anxiety about change. Max and Jude, the two youngest class members described their families as typical white middle class families. Their self-storying reveals nostalgic discourse. Ƒor Max, childhood and life events were recounted through “the heavy filter of memories …as the mind’s projection unit.” An uncomplicated childhood full of talking animal stories as in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, and Joel Chandler Griffiths’ Uncle Remus stories was evoked. An idealised childhood complete with Grandfathers whose “glory days had come and gone during World War 2” was reimagined (, p. 147). Jude’s life-storying was informed by her interest in film representations of history and was accompanied by a DVD slideshow of arresting images. One image stirs memories of a New Zealand summer holiday in the mid-1980s: a campsite by a bay; dinghies beached on the shore; and Combi vans tucked into the shadow of bush-covered hills. A woman [grandmother?] is walking away from the photographer along a track between Pohutukawa trees and water. Her back is straight and strong, and she carries a young child in each arm with comfortable balance. One child looks forward, and the other child looks backwards. Jude chose to place this image at the end of her life history narrative. Whilst keeping the reader wondering, the image suggests Jude’s strong sense of family, her nostalgic view of the past, of moving into the future, and of the landscapes that move her (, p. 147).
Participants reflected their phenomenological empathy and values and beliefs about history through reflective journal entries in class, critical discourse analysis of self-selected history text, and conversations. History was commonly conceptualised as a discourse of history as lived outside the past – meaning history’s external representation through the voices of observers and interpreters living outside the past. Marie, who had worked as a museum educator prior to entering secondary teacher education, had a professional and critical awareness of ways historical experiences are represented in the present. Marie wrote about her visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC to indicate her values and beliefs about history.
Marie’s Visit to the Holocaust Museum, Washington.
“I set out one morning for the Holocaust museum. We were lined up outside to go individually through the bag and weapon check, with even our water bottles inspected for potential poisons. Then it was up in an elevator to the top floor to begin the exhibition.”
“As a museum professional I am always looking at the text and labels, checking for display ideas, use of font and graphics etc., so spent considerable time on the first floor in the introductory stage of the exhibition, and was surrounded by classes of secondary school children. As I made my way down the exhibition levels, I grew increasingly depressed at the story being told. I already knew what happened in the Holocaust but to see footage of Jews having lobotomies whilst they were awake, the metal bins filled with parts of bodies—I thought I was going to throw up in the room. The school students were crying, and then we turned a corner and were faced with the hundreds of shoes left by those who had been sent to the gas chambers. It was the most effective and disturbing museum I have ever been to and I still get flashbacks to the film footage and feel a wave of nausea. My uncle who I was staying with in Washington is Polish and had managed to get out of Poland during the War. [He] was very upset that I had gone to the museum. He said it was in the past and it should stay buried, and why do young people want to see such things. I could not really answer him after seeing it.”
Marie’s encounter with Holocaust history brought moral and ethical issues, and history’s representation and purpose in contemporary contexts into sharp relief. The DA uncovered the tensions and difficult moments Marie negotiated between her professional role as a museum educator, and her uncertainties about re-imagining and re-storying history in contemporary society (, p. 156). John’s view of history as “uncertain, dependent on interpretation, and individual perceptions” offered a space for a more critical interrogation of historical contexts, and the historian’s motives (, p. 152). Ana understood history as socially constructed, and culturally reproduced. She described history as “the multiplicity of the past and present—a fractured multi-faceted discourse” and viewed ideas and concepts that shape the investigative historian’s perceptions as “no less pervasive than the ideas and concepts behind any historical context.” (, p. 156). In Jude’s life-storying, she articulated the work of history in this expansive conception:
“History is an area of life that increases understanding of human nature and the world around us. It allows us to know what events, ways of life, people and landscapes there were in the world. It also inspires and creates human emotion and empathy, encourages use of imagination, and interaction with others to express understandings and perspectives.” (, p. 158).
All participants expressed certainties about their abilities to interpret historical perspectives as observers living outside the past, and to judge experiences of the past in light of their own values and perspectives. They presented their understandings of interpretive and perspectival thinking with an assuredness about their historical abilities and knowledge to judge others past experiences. However, only three participants had studied any aspect of Aotearoa New Zealand histories and experienced something of history research methods. A discourse of uncertainty in relation to participants’ historical knowledge was evident in their feelings of doubt and discomfort with the affective force of ‘difficult knowledge’.
6.2 Pedagogic identities as pre-service teachers
Participants’ journal reflections prior to their first practicum revealed pedagogic identities and voices. Max’s discourse about shaping a teacher identity was influenced by history teachers he had revered as “people of substance, wisdom, insight, and maturity” (, p. 164). Marie invoked her identities and roles as a museum educator, international traveller, observer, employee and student to illustrate her scholarly discourse and high expectations of selves. Val’s sensitivity about body image, and her fears of colleagues’ perceptions were at odds with her outwards confidence and expressive voice. As the May school practicum edged closer, class members revealed pedagogic identities. A powerful discourse of embodiment was expressed as feelings of fear, failure and fraud in relation to becoming history teachers and not meeting colleagues’ professional expectations. Vulnerability and eccentricity were glimpsed in their embodied teaching selves. Maya emphatically reflected: “Then it’s practicum for six weeks! I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go! I DON’T WANT TO GO!!!! I am feeling anxious, nervous, petrified, and generally just scared” (, p. 165). A fear of not knowing and feeling like a fraud as a teacher proved a compelling discourse. John experienced panic attacks about not being interesting or effective. Ruth was fearful of not being a successful history teacher. Rosa worried about dealing with disruptive junior students. She feared judgement about “any failure to instill strict discipline over what are problematic classes … my mission is to steel myself to cope with teaching them.” (, p. 166). Ways that sense is made of history as teachers and learners have a powerful effect, because our ways of knowing are negotiated through embodied identities and relations. Class members’ thinking about teaching history was shaped by experiences of school history’s discursive production and ways of doing, being, and valuing. School history might be conceptualised as a site of cultural politics in education where hegemonic structures favour desired qualities and material practices over others. The underbelly or often hidden side of education was exposed by the participants’ discourses of embodiment. Uncertainty about pedagogic selves, identities and history knowledge was filtered through participants’ lenses of educational experience.
6.3 Threshold experiences with school history curriculum and pedagogy
The participants experienced their first practicum experience after three months of class work and PHP research processes. Curriculum discourses in our class work and practicum preparation presented entry points for understanding school history. Participants’ phenomenological (interpretive) empathy and self-fashioning in relation to history curriculum and pedagogy was elicited through their journal writing and post practicum conversations. Glimpses of threshold experiences of history curriculum and pedagogy are shared as follows. History’s curriculum purpose was not questioned during pedagogic approaches participants experienced whilst on practicum. History pedagogy was experienced as an exclusive citizenship orientation, a kind of unquestioned and unconscious narrative of nationalism and national identity discourse. However the concept of ‘citizenship’ was not referred to as such.
Whilst the discourse of fears, fraud, and failure seemed to go underground as participants settled into practicum, their narratives reveal resilience as they came to grips with colleagues’ expectations and approaches. The wanting to fit in and to be taken seriously meant most participants were reluctant to seek guidance, ask questions about where to find resources and access information, or reveal they had no knowledge of contexts they were teaching. The participants’ shift from a focus on teaching selves to viewing history students as learners, and thinking about history pedagogy as relational pedagogy, was evident in journal reflections and post practicum conversations. Marie reflected on her attempt to bring some meaning to the context of New Zealand’s political leadership by working with skills of historical empathy.
“And so I wanted to use historical imagination. They had to produce a brochure for the 1972 election and imagine themselves as Norman and say where they are going to take this country and why we are going to vote for him. I thought it was an interesting thing to do BUT a lot of the students including the brighter ones would go: I’d rather just write notes Miss, can’t you just put it on the board? Why do we have to do this?” (, p. 183).
Participants (Ana, John, Adele, and Marie) questioned learners’ inquiry of specific events-based information of an historical context, when there appeared to be limited engagement with or understanding of human agency, wider social forces and movements, or unpacking of concepts and ideas. John reflected that the Russian Revolution history he taught on practicum was focused on knowledge transmission to pass an NCEA externally assessed examination:
“I wanted to develop their appreciation, their knowledge of history. I don’t even know if it was the NCEA’s fault, or just the way the school did deal with NCEA. But to me it was all driven towards achieving the credits and not about appreciating the subject” (, p. 184).
Marie and John evaluated the historical contexts they worked with as difficult for students to make sense of in light of their ages and life experiences. John reflected on the relevance of the Russian Revolution for his students.
“I do suspect they enjoyed it but I think the context would have been most challenging, just trying to work out why things occurred, and how that was particularly relevant. Just, how things have developed today, it would have been a different situation if it happened now: and just trying to link that back to the past and work out why the Tsarist regime behaved the way it did: the whole divine right of Kings and all that kind of stuff, and just the whole different political structure I guess. Trying to understand and get a feeling for the situation at the time would be the most challenging for them” (, p. 184).
Most participants supported a need to understand New Zealand histories through bicultural lenses. Whilst this was not their experience of the history curriculum, it was their hope for things to come. Ruth was intensely affected by colleagues’ cursory approaches towards or disinterest in New Zealand’s history.
“I often hear that New Zealand history is boring. I hate it when people say [mimics voices in a dramatic whisper]: ‘Oh why are you doing New Zealand history? It doesn’t have much history, it is only a young country’. Stop patronising! I usually say: “Do you know anything about New Zealand history? It doesn’t sound like you do!” (, p. 185).
Val and Jude were disturbed by the overtly male-centred nature of history programmes they encountered through ‘sacred’ topic preferences and the dated authorship and sexist nature of many history resources. Val reflected on her associate teacher’s approach:
“Being a boys’ school, they really responded to it because they could easily get him off track by asking about guns and tanks and stuff. It was a really positive experience for them and the boys really enjoyed history, because he knew a lot about what they wanted to know about. That’s where I felt I was failing. My weakness as a history teacher is that I have no interest or knowledge in the sorts of history that boys care about” (, p. 186)
Jude and Val observed that women’s historical representation was generally addressed as an afterthought. They questioned the conflict-oriented contexts that both young men and women seemed to enjoy. Val reflected on the importance of young men having ‘ownership’ of historical knowledge, but saw this as compromised if historical knowledge was one-sided. Jude reflected: “History cannot be taught effectively if the learners have warped ideas of it and are therefore confused and biased to begin with” ( p. 189). They attempted to introduce aspects of women’s historical experience into the topics they taught as purposeful and ‘culturally just’ learning.
Participants recounted their relationships with history colleagues when thoughts were shared about ‘fitting in’ with associates’ pedagogies. Val felt a sense of “guilt and shame about not putting the hours of prep in as her peers.” She perceived her weaknesses and she longed for positive mentoring and constructive feedback rather than ambiguous comment:
“I had a really good lesson with them and I said to my associate “that was a good lesson.” She said, “you reckon!” But she said it in a ‘loving’ (not hostile) way because I had built up too much into being a yelly person and her method of teaching is not that”. (, p. 187).
Ana, who saw herself as an advocate for students, found aspects of her history associate’s pedagogic relationships at odds with her vision of pedagogy.
“He’s very passionate about whatever he is doing, and he definitely has a love of it. He has such a huge knowledge base and I think there are certain students that connect with that. But it is very obvious that if you don’t fit his mould of an accepted person, they’re actually wiped quite succinctly, clearly, and labeled” (, p. 187).
Inside their threshold experience of school history, participants observed the intended, implemented, and outcomes-based history curriculum largely as substantive reproduction of events-based facts. Few engaged with, or initiated pedagogy that questioned learning outcomes or students’ passivity and disengagement in classrooms. A recurrent discourse articulated their impressions of teachers’ contextual choices as conflict-based and violent. Participants’ reflexivity revealed their rapid socialisation into discourses of teacher professionalism that I am also positioned within. Professional loyalty meant caution in not voicing overt criticism. Loyalty towards their practicum schools and colleagues was evident in the respectful and considered way participants recounted their experiences. Silence might be interpreted in the discourse of teacher professionalism as a shared understanding of what was known, but could not be voiced.
As a follow up to the first practicum experience, participants completed a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of self-selected history textual material commonly used in school history programmes. As a PHP research process, I wanted to engage participants in thinking about how texts construct representations of history and the past, identities and historical relationships, and authority and control. Dismantling analysis of the participants’ CDA revealed that half the class had no prior experience of textual analysis. Whilst participants could identify historical contexts and settings, narrative purpose, and curriculum connections with ease, the identification and analysis of discourses, dominant themes and ideas proved a new and challenging interpretive process for half the class. John’s social reconstructionist curriculum orientation opened a space to reflect on counter-narratives of stories not told, contingency, and human dilemmas. Max’s CDA revealed an awareness of meta-narratives and omissions in historical accounts. Ana’s CDA noted: “The realisation of the ease with which a history can be reinterpreted, and re-constructed through further analysis, exemplifies the interpretive nature of history, the historical process, and the multiplicity inherent in the past.” (, p. 203). Max, became absorbed in his CDA, and he wrote with passion about the discursive practice of history as written by the victors, and stated:
“We still give texts such as this to our history students: Where are the ordinary people?”
“According to the text they aren’t important enough to talk about, even collectively! History from the top down – politicians, war-mongers, politics, wars, countries and national desires, conquests and losses. Perhaps the authors are constructing a nice sanitised version of the events leading up to WW2, as if to demonstrate that these “important dates”, places, and people they discuss, are agents somehow able to act in isolation from the peoples they represent. Common people do not make history in other words” (, p. 205).
Adele was disappointed with the limited cultural perspectives and misplaced gendered assumptions in her selected text where generic characters were prescribed by the author’s descriptions:
“There is also an assumption in this text that all men were against prohibition and all women for it. Perspectives that should also be examined are those of women who were opposed to suffrage, and men who supported it, as these were important gendered perspectives in the suffrage debate. The author only allows two reasons that men were opposed to suffrage – social status or lack of capacity. This is a Eurocentric exemplar that suggests Maori were not concerned with issues of suffrage. As all Maori men over the age of 21 [could] vote from 1867, it would follow that all Maori would have a stake in the suffrage movement too” (, p. 205).
Ana had worked with her selected text with her first practicum class. She perceived that opportunities for stimulating and challenging students’ historical thinking with the ‘quality’ text were not explored:
“[The author] organised and structured this text in a manner that required further active pedagogical engagement than that witnessed. Many students displayed an insightfulness that reflected the qualities of this text and their own level of intellect, rather than the success of the pedagogical style of the teacher” (, p. 206).
Few participants felt confident in engaging with historical research methods or analytical skills processes, to uncover and interpret evidence. Interestingly, none of the participants questioned the nature of or the historical purpose of the historical contexts that their texts represented.
6.4 PHP as public and accountable discursive practice
Participants’ discursive self-fashioning was revealed through their conceptions of school history curriculum and their pedagogic desire, disturbance and critique. They designed, facilitated and evaluated their own sequences of PHP within a history class in the second practicum. Their PHP cases as a research process drew on their observations and reflections of an aspect of history pedagogy that disturbed them. Participants’ PHP revealed pedagogic voices, identities and relationships in the enacted school history curriculum. Table 1. Participants’ Pedagogic Disturbance and Decisions to Problematise History Pedagogy provides an overview of the PHP decisions designed for implementation within associate teachers’ history classrooms. The problematising contexts mirror my experiences of the history curriculum in its promotion of a Eurocentric male-focused canon of topic contexts. However, these contexts were not the participants’ choice, and they were fortunate to implement teaching experience within schools’ history programmes. Participants’ accounts of their students’ responses to the history curriculum exposed a disturbing picture of student disengagement. Consequently, most of the PHP decisions attempted to mediate this situation by building supportive relationships with students. Whilst the purpose of history programmes did not seem apparent to learners, the authority and perceived threat of the NCEA history assessment hung over them (reflected by all participants). The PHP ‘cases’ as storied into my wider narrative research  indicated history students’ disengagement and confusion with their history learning.
|Participants||Curriculum Disturbance||Problematised History Pedagogy|
|John||Year 11 students’ perceptions of the actions of/ historical significance of Black Civil Rights leaders USA 1960s||Introduced counter-narratives to engage students in thinking about moral and ethical issues re protest and conflicting positions|
|Adele||Year 12 students’ limited contextual and conceptual understandings re. Conflict in Indo-China/Vietnam 1945–1970s||Intensive focus on ideas, e.g. nationalism and identity to support essay writing skills|
|Val||Year 12 ‘unwilling’ students’ limited understandings of/organisation/information re the Irish history topic||Established reasons to be learning about history: Essay writing skills and ascertaining students’ conceptual understandings|
|Maya||Year 11 students’ ‘disinterest’ in history – World War 2 topic||Focusing students on the relevance of history, and exploring perspectives and viewpoints|
|Marie||Year 13 students’ ‘unproductive’ independent learning re. Early Modern English history 1558–1665||Surveying students’ strengths and weaknesses re history context (knowledge/skills processes/preferred pedagogy). Provision of informed pedagogy|
|Ruth||Year 11 students’ limited engagement with human agency/motivations and historical empathy re. Irish republican movement 1916–1919||Facilitated activities for students to embody the history they were revising – historical imagination and empathy|
|Max||Year 11 students discussion sessions re. Black Civil Rights 1950s–1970. Discovery that a group of fearful students was dislocated from the class pedagogy||Activated strategies to observe students’ engagement in pedagogy and elicit students’ responses re historical understandings|
|Jude||Year 10 students confusion with connections between random 20th century revolutionary contexts and WW2;|
Year 11 students boredom with Black Civil Rights 1950s–1970 history
|Contextualised Hitler’s leadership and Nazism within a framework of documentary evidence;|
Focus on womens’ historical experiences and representation
|Ana||Year 12 students’ passive engagement with historical texts re. Vietnamese nationalism 1945–1975||Facilitated textual analysis and interrogation to stimulate critical thinking.|
|Rosa||Did not undertake this research process due to personal circumstances.|
PHP cases exposed history students impressions that history is mostly about note-taking and information about events, cause, effect and consequences, and essay writing – a skill they found demanding and difficult (Adele, Max, Marie, Val, Ana). Concerns about students’ literacy skills were apparent in participants’ decisions to focus on conceptual understandings, revision processes/making sense of information, supporting learning needs, and their rejection of transmissive approaches. The DA of the PHP cases indicates participants’ thinking about their responsibilities as beginning history teachers, and something of their responses to, and reimagining’s of history pedagogy in the school curriculum. The participants’ PHP advanced critique into public spaces of curriculum and assessment policies. Whilst PHP was possible, it was activated within class programmes that embedded teachers’ values and topic preferences, standards’ interpretation, and the use of traditional texts. Despite these constraints, participants acted on their situated disturbance to engage students in pedagogy that was generated as something different. The PHP decisions might be perceived as the practice that teachers and students need to engage with every day, rather than as critical practice. However, the PHP did prompt critique of normalised discourses, exclusive knowledge claims and pedagogic assumptions. Participants reflected on the dominant orientation of school history as a form of inquiry whereby information gathering involved transmission of prevailing knowledge claims. This orientation reflects curriculum and assessment positioning as the public and accountable approach to school history. This was viewed as problematic in terms of reproduction of exclusive and normative thinking. Likewise the orientation of history as shaping and connections was viewed as problematic in relation to nostalgic memory work, unquestioned national narratives, exclusive citizenship and knowledge claims. Glimpses of three reimagined counter orientations were reflected as history as democratic and inclusive (Val, Max, Marie, Ruth) history as social reconstruction (John), and history as a critical project (Ana).
Participants expressed the desire to be ‘switched on’ teachers. This was generally seen as being informed, active, purposeful, observant, dialogic, and inclusive. The participants’ PHP cases are storied in my wider narrative research, and present rich evidence of pre-service teachers’ motivations to engage with history learners. With a sense of being a ‘subversive teacher’ John designed his PHP to go beyond topic constraints and he focused on ways students perceived the historical significance of the civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. In evaluating his PHP, John reflected on moral and ethical issues raised in conflict-focused historical contexts:
“Yeah, parts of it worked, parts didn’t. They were still keen on the violence, and I don't know if that's really because of the two leaders, or just because nowadays kids are into violence and people dying, and war games and that sort of stuff. But when you try and wind it back to the curriculum and the material that you are going to teach, it’s the people dying that gets them going!!! Whereas the whole values and the reasons behind them, the philosophies and all that kind of stuff, it bores them. I found dealing with that was kind of hard. Because my focus was on Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, I wanted the kids to have a broader understanding of the cost of violence” (, p. 210-211)
Whilst John enabled his students to form their own opinions and think of different perspectives, he reflected on his PHP motivations to question whether he was being a subversive teacher or a teacher pushing his agenda. Ana’s PHP involved textual analysis as informed by her CDA. She expressed a clear purpose for her PHP that “all text/sources can be open to question and critique, and should therefore not be consumed passively as orthodox and authoritative” and further reflected:
“I believe that only through the active engagement with text, its deconstruction, evaluation, and analysis can students gain the history skills necessary to successfully critique and evaluate the historical information, perspective and bias inherent in any text. This skill is an absolute necessity for the comprehension and understanding of the multiplicity of history in the past, and in essence the diversity of the wider world today. The gaining of this skill therefore becomes a practical and relevant tool for students studying the past, engaging with the past, and goes some way to justifying the relevance of the discipline of history itself” (, p. 218).
7. A continuity of problematised history pedagogy in ITE
The PHP research has proved invaluable for my ongoing work in postgraduate teacher education. Emergent findings revealed participants’ reflexivity, and exposed gaps and weaknesses, certainties and uncertainties in conceptions of school history and historical thinking. As a consequence, I deliberately plan for and address the following elements of history education with pre-service teachers, and embed these within my course objectives and assignment work:
Making explicit the constructed narrative nature of history and focusing on historical representation through a range of media including digital sources;
Active deconstruction of historical texts (visual, audio, written, performance …);
Questioning uncritical and normative approaches to perspectives’ thinking and interpretation in pedagogy;
Countering tentative and apologetic approaches to inclusion of gendered and cultural historical agency and experience;
Identifying discursive and disciplinary orientations to history;
Modelling pedagogy that critiques the purpose of history for secondary students;
Identification of exclusive notions of citizenship, and finding ways to understand, confront, and become informed about ‘difficult knowledge’.
Two assignments in my history course work have evolved from the PHP findings and embed critical approaches to pedagogy. One is an E-Portfolio of scholarly research of an unfamiliar Aotearoa historical context relevant to senior history students’ interests. This involves pre-service history teachers in understanding and reflecting engagement with the pedagogic elements listed above. The second assignment involves the research and writing of an article for a history teaching audience that reports on pedagogic disturbance and PHP activated with history students as evidence-based practice.
The PHP findings inform critique of ways history is conceptualised in the national curriculum, and the national history curriculum history achievement objectives’ alignments (since 2007) with the national qualifications framework’s history assessment standards [13, 14]. In September 2019, the Government announced plans to teach New Zealand history in all schools and kura by 2022
The emergent research findings have implications for ways students as young citizens receive and understand history in the schooling curriculum. Students’ interest in and selection of history as a subject requires investment and innovation in approach. Years 11–13 students’ voicing of fears and confusion in relation to their history learning deserves critical attention. Normalised reproduction of topic preferences, often conflict based and centered on mens’ historical experience needs to be questioned in light of perpetuating inequalities and injustice. The PHP highlighted a prevalent view of history teachers that anything different or cultural or social in the history curriculum is an aberration, and likely to be rejected. The PHP findings are situated in my pedagogy and in a particular group of schools. I cannot claim that the findings are representative of all schooling sites.
8. Closing thoughts
My motivation for writing this chapter is informed by observations of senior history students who generally experience historical inquiry as disconnected from their embodied lifeworlds, cultural values and experiences. This also increasingly applies to pre-service history teachers as they negotiate the cultural politics of the history curriculum – often without knowledge of Aotearoa New Zealand histories, or conceptions of the nature and purpose of history education. An introduction to the contemporary context of Aotearoa New Zealand society sets the scene for a discussion of young people’s lived citizenships as fluid crossings of identities, and diverse cultures including cyber, popular, social media, and real and imagined spaces of belonging. My positioning as a teacher educator of social sciences and history is introduced in light of complex crossings of professional, academic, public, pedagogic and policy sites of history where discursive production noisily jostles to cast an unstable and contested shape of school history. Curriculum and policy disturbance is recounted because this activated my resistance to history policy decision-making, and moved me to focus research on my history work in teacher education. The conceptualisation of teaching selves, a theorising of history, and description of dimensions of pedagogy present a foundation for my shift to a critical pedagogy stance. PHP research designed as a reciprocal system of meaning layered within wider narrative research is outlined, along with a description of a Dismantling Analysis (DA) that sought to unravel and interpret the symbolic mantle of the cultural politics and power relations of school history. Emergent findings of participants’ PHP are presented within a commentary that brings voice and visibility to the participants’ experiences of school history. A continuity of critical approaches to history pedagogy that has evolved from the PHP research identifies elements in course work for pre-service teachers’ historical thinking.
As identity and belonging is an important element of lived citizenships, then young citizens need to see their pasts as valued and tangible in the histories of this place Aotearoa New Zealand, and its peoples. History education has a responsibility to make visible inclusive representations of the past, to counter normative narratives of certainty, and to expose exclusive notions of being a future-oriented citizen in Aotearoa New Zealand. Historians’ skills and motivations to identify alternative paths and experiences through their narratives, and to be open to critique power(ful) practices and dominant worldviews, deserve attention in history education. Historians might help us see the past as a provocation to view something of our selves in different ways. Dialogue is needed between history researchers and practitioners in teacher education, schools and the academy, to enable young citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand to affirm identities and access lived experiences of the past. They need to be part of the histories of the present, and to see themselves in history.
I was fortunate to work with 10 extraordinary individuals as my students, colleagues and friends to research history pedagogy. As participants, their commitment to the PHP enabled me to see something of their beating hearts, emotions, and embodied selves as teachers. This was a privilege. I am indebted to their disarming honesty that has advanced my knowledge of history education.
- Te Tiriti o Waitangi is Aotearoa New Zealand’s foundation document. It was signed on 06 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a living blueprint for a hopeful and optimistic future.
- In secondary schooling, students achieve credits for curricula coursework via internal and external assessment across their senior years (11-13). The New Zealand Qualifications Authority administers qualifications for general schooling over three levels of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).
- Ruth Lister, Citizenship: Towards a feminist synthesis, Feminist Review 57; 1997. 28-48; Anne-Shela Orloff, Gender and the social rights of citizenship: The comparative analysis of gender relations and welfare states. American Sociological Review. 58.3; 1993. 303-328; Mason Durie, Te Mana, Te Kawanatanga. The Politics of Maori Self-Determination. Auckland: Oxford University Press; 1998.
- Tikanga is a Māori concept and practice that refers to customs, lore, protocols, values. Te Ao Māori refers to the Māori world in richness and depth.
- Pākehā is a Māori word for people who are non-Māori New Zealanders. The use of Pākehā conveys an identity in relation to Māori.
- Education Council of New Zealand. Our code our standards: Code of professional responsibility and standards for the teaching profession Ngā tikanga matatika ngā paerewa. Wellington, NZ: Author; 2017. https://teachingcouncil.nz/professional-practice/our-code-our-standards/
- Neo-liberal discourses project the growth of the economy as the means to address social and educational issues. Individualism and self-interest is a key value in these discourses. In my experience of Aotearoa New Zealand educational policy reforms since the late 1980s, an inherent hetero-normativity operates within these discourses to perpetuate exclusive gendered curriculum and pedagogy.
- Henry Giroux’s reconstructive discourse for students’ consciousness-raising whereby their voices might be heard, positions society as an ethical and hopeful project. Both Giroux and Kincheloe have advocated critical pedagogies as enabling ways of thinking freed from traditional and fixed boundaries of knowledge.