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ERIC Number: ED550512
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 226
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2678-4549-8
Interpreting the Past, Interpreting Themselves? How Young People Use History to Talk about Their Lives, Identities, and Values
Dawes Duraisingh, Elizabeth
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Harvard University
History education experts are increasingly interested in the concept of "historical consciousness"--that is, how as individuals we orient ourselves in time and create for ourselves "historical identity". But is encouraging students to feel personally connected to the past potentially in tension with promoting their historical understanding in a "disciplinary" sense? I conducted an exploratory, ground-up investigation into how 16-18 year olds think about "themselves" in relation to the past (n = 179). In particular, I explored the relationship between young people's epistemological understandings of history and the ways in which they use history to talk about their own lives, identities, and values. I administered a three-part questionnaire to students in four Boston-area public schools. Some tasks invited students to make connections between themselves and the past; another probed their epistemological thinking. I interviewed 28 students about their responses. In my analysis I paid particular attention to how students were constructing narratives and what they were "doing" when they made connections between themselves and the past. I also assessed whether students exhibited constructivist or objectivist assumptions about the nature of historical knowledge. My principal findings were: (1) Differences in students' epistemological understandings of history were related to important differences in how they talked about themselves in relation to the past. (2) An awareness of the constructed nature of historical knowledge did not preclude students from demonstrating considerable sensitivity toward the influence of the past on their lives, or from conveying a "strong" historical identity. Sophisticated epistemological understanding potentially "enhanced" students' historical consciousness. (3) Students were accomplishing a variety of things when they made connections between themselves and the past, including positioning themselves relative to different groups and individuals. (4) Students' developmental need to form a coherent identity and ideology influenced how they interacted with the past. For example, without prompting on my part, many students used the past to discuss their values. (5) My focus on various "processes" by which young people connect their own lives to the past yielded valuable insights which could inform both theory and practice in history education, as well as literatures concerned with individual identity construction. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts