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Learning history in and outside the classroom: how the interaction between museums and primary schools constructs understandings of history

Kostarigka, Eleni 2010. Learning history in and outside the classroom: how the interaction between museums and primary schools constructs understandings of history. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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It has been argued that the Educational Reform Act 1988, with the introduction of the National Curriculum (NC), effected changes in museum education (Hooper-Greenhill, 1994d: 240-241 Hein 2006:6). This study looks at the relationship between schools and museum education, and how it is mediated by the NC for History in Wales. The majority of existing museum data derives from studies that collect visitors' and children's views either during or after their visit. This study tries to bridge this gap by combining these two institutional settings, using history in the NC as a lens in order to study the relationship between these two social settings: schools and museums. The study takes two epistemological grounds into account. The first examines cultural policies, the NC, and the ways in which they represent or promote history. The second considers the ways in which people directly involved with these policies put them into practice. Simultaneously, it looks at how children respond to their visit to St Fagans: National History Museum (henceforth St. Fagans: NHM). The research data derives from classroom observations, before, during and after children's participation in the history workshops and activities offered to schools by St Fagans: NHM as well as from interviews with museum professionals, teachers and the history advisers for Wales. The findings show that the ways in which history is taught at the participant schools and through the history activities for children at St Fagans: NHM reflect the general direction of neo-liberal approaches to knowledge and learning. History teaching and learning appears to take an instrumental form, which places more emphasis on activities rather than knowledge and understanding. Learning through activities was a central demand of the progressive voices that demanded child-centred curricula in Britain during the late 1960s. Nevertheless, this shift is now taking place under different political and economic goals, which are in line with neoliberal directives that emphasise the learning of transferable skills through each NC subject. Additionally, the findings of the study suggest that workshops for history at St Fagans: NHM fail to equip children with analytic skills of knowledge and understanding. History is mainly restricted to the enquiry of superficial relations of objects and material expressions of social history, which do not allow children to grasp further the social relations and processes of the historical period studied. Moreover, with few exceptions, the workshops for history do not raise awareness of the particularities of Welsh history and its relations to the history of the other nations of Britain during the periods studied. Nevertheless, the analysis of the interview data shows that there is a certain level of unease about the directions of the NC as well as the character of St Fagans: NHM, as part of the National Museum of Wales. The participant teachers, museum professionals and history advisers are satisfied with the 'active' and enquiring character that school history seems to be taking on board, but there are some concerns about the ways in which these could be balanced out with historical knowledge and understanding, chronological awareness as well as the complicated social and political implications of the historical period studied and its connections to the present.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
ISBN: 9781303196218
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 08:26

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