Teaching Hhstory in a neoliberal age: policy, agency and teacher voice

Book


Woolley, M. 2019. Teaching Hhstory in a neoliberal age: policy, agency and teacher voice. Abingdon Routledge.
AuthorsWoolley, M.
Abstract

An oral history approach was used to explore history teachers’ perceptions, experiences and enactments of curriculum and policy between the years 1985 and 2011. The history curriculum has long been a site of contention. However, research has tended to concentrate on policy creation, policy documentation and textbook content. More recently, some studies have considered the voice of the history teacher. This research set out explicitly to understand teachers’ experiences in the history classroom throughout a period of rapid curriculum and policy change.

Interviews were conducted with thirteen history teachers, who had taught across this timeframe. The focus in using oral history was on teachers as witnesses, interpreters and enactors of curriculum and policy changes. Findings are set out in a chronological and occasionally thematic form, supported where relevant by secondary material. The relative autonomy of history teachers in the 1980s is explored, finding a diversity of practice and a significant amount of ‘dual practice,’ with teachers employing both traditional and progressive methods. The impact of the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1991 on teachers’ experience is considered before detailing the prescriptive policies that dominated the first decade after 2000. This is followed by a consideration of other agents of change acting on history teachers across the period.

This study concludes that there were dramatic changes in history teaching across this period, in terms of teachers’ epistemological position, professional status and pedagogic practice. All of the teachers interviewed perceived and experienced a loss of autonomy over this period. Exam boards were particularly powerful agents in effecting change in the history classroom. There was also a noticeable shift in the discourse teachers used to describe their practice, from an ‘authentic’ focus on substantive content at the beginning of their careers to a more ‘technical’ focus on assessment details after 2000. A small group of teachers appeared able to resist this pressure, maintaining a subject-specific, disciplinary approach. This study demonstrates the value of listening to the voices of experienced teachers and placing oral evidence against secondary literature to provide a richer and more meaningful account of this significant period of change. Additionally, it provides lessons for teacher educators and policy-makers concerning the need for subject-specific support networks for history teachers at every stage of their career.

KeywordsHistory education; National Curriculum; Teacher agency; Oral history; Policy enactment; Teacher experience; History teachers; Performative education; Teacher autonomy
Year2019
PublisherRoutledge
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
PrintSep 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited13 May 2021
Place of publicationAbingdon
Editionfirst
ISBN9780367227104
Official URLhttps://www.routledge.com/Teaching-History-in-a-Neoliberal-Age-Policy-Agency-and-Teacher-Voice/Woolley/p/book/9780367227104
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