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Dr Heather Sharp is a Lecturer (Senior Lecturer position to commence January 2017) at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has a PhD on a historical study of the history curriculum used in Australian schools across the twentieth century. Heather’s current research focuses on historical representations in school curricula, particularly textbooks; and also examines the written and visual texts in picture books that deal with conflict. Heather has had a range of academic roles including, for example, Director of Teaching Quality; First Year Experiences Convenor; Special Issues Editor of the Historical Encounters Journal; and Convenor for the History Network of Teachers and Researchers. More information about Heather’s academic profile can be accessed at: http://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/heather-sharp
Heather and her Swedish colleague Niklas Ammert recently developed a model that enables an analysis of curriculum documents through examining types of knowledge and values present in textbook activities. This model, presented as a matrix, looks at the relationship between knowledge types (based on Bruner’s work) and personal reflection on values required of students in answering textbook questions and activities.
The research project undertaken as part of the GEI fellowship investigated theoretical understandings of contested pasts with a specific focus on historical national traumas in history curriculum materials from various countries, including Australia. This research identified the notion of a world history approach (WHA) to history teaching as a historically rigorous and educationally sound approach to teaching contested pasts to school students. This is especially the case for those events or topics in history with emotional connections to individual nations, and in the case of Australia those historical narratives that are attributed to a ‘coming of age’ or ‘birth of the nation’ discourse.
While at the GEI, I was able to develop my articulation of the differences between a WHA and global history in terms of how the two terms can be viewed in relation to school curricula and specifically the subject of history in schools.
For my own research, I use the term WHA particularly in relation to teaching controversial issues that relate to a nation’s founding story or other type of nation-building narrative. Here, a WHA is beneficial as it enables a version of history to be learnt and taught that, regardless of the perspective or national origin of the students learning the history, stands up to historical methodological rigour. This approach leaves no room for jingoistic versions of national history to be privileged over the histories of other nations.
Some definitions of WHA take the term to mean a broad, brushstroke approach to teaching The History of the World; however, in this context, it is in fact an approach that considers the global contexts of a nation’s own history, especially in a way that aims to demythologise various national myths and legends that are not historically accurate, although finely ingrained into the national psyche.
WHA is useful when conducting comparative research across nations, on controversial topics, for example Turkish and Australian perspectives of the Allied invasion of Turkey in 1915 (First World War). The research I was able to conduct at the GEI library is now informing a collaborative project I am conducting with a scholar from Turkey on perspectives of school students on the commemoration of Gallipoli and Çanakkale.
Research Undertaken at the Georg Eckert Institute
The fellowship provided me with the opportunity to work in a sustained manner at a world-class library in terms of the resources available in the textbook collection, the general collection of books about curricula and education more broadly, and the expertise of the librarians. As it is difficult to access some textbooks through the countries themselves, the GEI library is an excellent resource for this kind of research.
During the tenure of my fellowship, in addition to investigating historical consciousness, controversial history/contested pasts, using curricular media in the history classroom, and researching the world history approach, I was able to locate relevant textbooks for my connected research projects from countries such as Turkey, Syria and Jordan. For these projects, I am currently researching with a colleague, analysing the use of images and maps in textbooks to teach specific aspects of a nation’s history. Later, this research will expand to look at written text.
In terms of linking my research to my university teaching, I have strengthened my theoretical understandings of history curricula to develop a practical project that looks at the pedagogical practices of teachers’ use of the curriculum and associated educational media in the classroom. This project, which is based on a Study Abroad Field Trip I lead with students through the Western Front of France, will result in a publication that explicitly links theory with practice and is designed specifically for pre-service and practising teachers.
From the research conducted at the GEI, I have been able to develop a clear research plan for 2016-2017 that includes a list of potential publications to come out of the research I conducted while on my fellowship.
Having the privilege of working in an Institute that has a clear focus on its research agenda and with colleagues, both GEI employees and other fellowship awardees and interns, during my stay provided a wonderful opportunity to discuss my research project with a range of international colleagues and to assist in further refining my ideas.
In particular, I would like to thank the library staff for their patience with my elementary German language skills and for their professional knowledge and wide-ranging help with my research.
I would also like to thank Dr Peter Carrier and Dr Felicitas Macgilchrist for generously giving their time and sharing their knowledge and experience to discuss my research ideas.
Dr Heather Sharp, PhD
Lecturer, School of Education
First Year Experiences Convenor
Special Issues Editor, Historical Encounters Journal
University of Newcastle
HA121 Hunter Building
Callaghan NSW 2308
Ph: +61 2 4921 8700