Enacting critical historical thinking : decision making among novice secondary social studies teachers
This qualitative multiple case study conducted from an interpretive epistemological stance, focused on three novice social studies teachers decision making practices in regards to the use critical historical thinking. In seeking to understand teacher’s decision making practices, this research explored the bodies of knowledge that influence social studies teachers’ use of historical thinking in more critical ways. The theoretical framework guiding this research centered around three major frames: (1) the roots of teacher knowledge, including such things as teacher beliefs, teacher education experiences, and teacher content knowledge, (2) the bodies of teacher knowledge informed by these roots including official knowledge, and emancipatory or counter knowledge, and (3) how these bodies of knowledge lead to curricular enactment of critical historical thinking. Data analysis revealed four results that shaped teachers’ decisions and ability to use critical historical thinking in their classroom. The first three results highlight the bodies of knowledge teachers’ utilized in their decision-making practices, including their experiential knowledge, such as their familial and K-16 schooling experiences, content knowledge, both their knowledge of official and subjugated narratives, and pedagogical content knowledge. The final result explores how these bodies of knowledge interact with teachers’ schooling contexts. Findings suggest that historical positionality shapes not only the learning process, but the teaching process as well. A teachers’ historical positionality influences the way they are able to engage students in more critical renditions of the past. Teachers’ personal experiences inform their historical positionality, including their rationale and commitment to choose particular curriculum and pedagogical practices that address issues of race, class, and gender. Additionally, teachers’ critical content consciousness or the degree to which they are able negotiate the distance between their academic content knowledge and their beliefs about the past also shape their decisions to use critical historical thinking as a regular pedagogical practice. Finally, the last finding highlights the complex process teachers’ engage in as they navigate the external factors that press in on their daily teaching practice in ways that are critically ambitious. As such, the findings from this study have implications for both preservice and inservice teacher preparation.