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Reading the Blood Tainted Colors of Civil War
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education.
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Research topic

The purpose of this study is to analyze and clarify the complicated relationship between upper secondary student’s preconceptions and their understanding of contrasting historical documents regarding a debated topic. The data also offers an opportunity to examine how well upper secondary students from neighboring countries master skills related to historical literacy. Our research questions are: 1) how students with different backgrounds and political preconceptions interpret the same ideologically biased primary sources? and 2) are students able to adapt and use the key dimensions of historical literature?

Theoretical framework and relevance to Nordic educational research

 

Syllabi in Sweden and Finland underscores that students should be able to read and review historical documents to better understand historical events. This kind of approach can be described with the concept historical literacy which rose forth at the end of the 1980's  in the United States. Sam Wineburg (1991) emphasized that historical sources are kind of testimonies which context, motives and contradictions have to be cleared. Historical literacy can in brief be defined as a skill to read and interpret historical texts from the starting points of a certain period of time. (Rantala & van den Berg 2013, 395)

It is obvious that historical literacy can be described as one of the key concepts  in history education both in Sweden and Finland. The question is whether source-critical examination of historical sources gives students the knowledge and skills that are aimed for. Previous research has highlighted that students come into the classroom with preconception which may color their understandings of the past in many ways (Barton, 2008; Nygren & Johnsrud, 2018). Students’ understandings of textbooks may for instance be affected by their political and ideological perspectives (Porat, 2004).  

Methodological design

In this study we use primary sources designed for educational purposes by Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland and Suomen kirjallisuuden seura. The material is designed to promote new knowledge of the Finnish Civil War and develop skills related to historical literacy. The material consists of an introduction and three newspaper articles from 1918. The articles reflect the perspectives of different groups in the conflict. The sources were read by  students from Swedish and Finnish upper secondary  schools.  The political biases of the primary sources make it useful to test how students with different political opinions interpret contrasting perspectives from the past. The data of this study consist of 200 Swedish and Finnish upper secondary school students’ responses. The data is analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Preliminary results

On the basis of a preliminary analysis of the Swedish data one can say that it is hard for the students to understand and interpret the materials. They had a hard time to make sense of the historical context and ideological biases of the sources.  At later stage the data that has been collected from Swedish and Finnish upper secondary schools will be compared more profoundly. At this stage the comparison will be concentrated especially on the skills linked to historical literacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
civil war, education, historical literacy
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-378914OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-378914DiVA, id: diva2:1295037
Conference
NFPF/NERA 2019 EDUCATION IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD Uppsala, Sweden 6-8 March
Available from: 2019-03-08 Created: 2019-03-08 Last updated: 2019-03-08

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Citation style
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