A Tale of Two Thresholds

Arlene J Diaz, Leah Shopkow


Our study follows the work produced by pre-service teachers in six of our required history seminars to analyse how their ideas about "what good historians do" and "what good history teachers do" changed over the semester. These pre-service teachers need to pass through two portals in their thinking: one, to develop a less novice-like understanding of how history functions as a discipline and, two, to move away from seeing their role as purveyors of single-stranded narratives that students should memorize, so that as teachers they can engage in teaching historical thinking. Through both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the 62 pre and post surveys, and their final papers (a lesson plan), we found that students’ performance in their lesson plans was more closely correlated with their ability to articulate what historians do than it was with their ability to articulate what history teachers do. Indeed, statistical correlation was high. These finding suggests that teaching history and knowing the ways of thinking of this discipline are inseparable in the shaping of an effective history teacher, and that pre-service teachers must pass through the disciplinary portal before they can teach historical thinking to anyone else.

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