Reverberating Echoes: Challenging Teacher Candidates to Tell and Learn From Entwined Narrations of Canadian History

Dec. 01, 2011

Source: Curriculum Inquiry Volume 41, Issue 5, December 2011, p. 610-635.
(Reviewed by the Portal team)

The authors report on a study with teacher candidates to illustrate the importance of explicitly engaging with the ways in which students' historical subjectivity depart from dominant historical narratives of a nation-state’s development so as to potentially derive alternative meanings of shared pasts from marginalized perspectives.

Specifically, the question that initiated this report was:
How might we open up a learning space in schools for multiple ways of storying the past related to the nation-state?

Study Population
The study population consists of two classes of 23 and 25 students enrolled in a social studies curriculum and instruction methods course in each of two consecutive winter semesters.

The Research Assignment

This project asks students to research and produce at least two digitally rendered narratives to convey differing interpretations of Canadian history.
In groups of two or three, students researched differing historical perspectives of their choice they would employ to create their narratives.

The authors required that students would convey one narrative using at least three events and then return to one event of their choice to convey another from different historical perspective.
In addition to the digital representation, the authors asked students to take one narrative and project its trajectory into the future in the form of three written plausible “scenarios of no more than three double-spaced pages.

While the scenarios and videos were produced by groups, each student was required to hand in an individual reflection paper.
The authors graded each component individually—the videos, reflection papers, and scenarios—and combined scores to make a single-graded assignment.

Data Sources and Methodology
Data were collected through two bodies of student work: the videos produced by the students and viewed by all students in class upon completion; the students’ individual reflection papers.


The authors identify several tensions involved in work with multiple perspectives that shape historical narratives:
a struggle to avoid culturally reductive or stereotypical images of otherness,
the taming of historical complexity for ease of communication, and
something of a fraught encounter with the dissonance as a reverberating echo at the heart of historical identifications and perspectives.

The authors also see evidence of students who now recognize
(1) the ways in which perspective shapes the telling of stories about the past;
(2) the issues of present concern to which these stories about or from the past are particular responses; and
(3) the recognition of dissonance at the heart of historical identifications.

The effort to implicate students’ historical subjectivity in the situation of those marginalized perspectives that exist beyond the socially sanctioned horizons of a grand narrative led students to significant insights about their own positionality.

Updated: Aug. 05, 2013