“You can form your own point of view”: Internally persuasive discourse in Northern Ireland Students’ encounters with History

Alan McCully, K.C. Barton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    43 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Research on historical understanding has sometimes depicted adolescents and adults as either appropriating or resisting particular narrative accounts, and resistance seems to be especially common when school-based narratives differ from those encountered outside school. In Northern Ireland, however, school history does not present an alternative narrative to community-based histories but takes a different approach altogether; school history represents an evidence-based, analytic subject that emphasizes multiple perspectives and avoids connections to contemporary identifications or political positions. In this study, we sought to understand how young people in Northern Ireland approached historical information both in school and, and how they made sense of conflicting perspectives on the past. Using qualitative, task-based interviews, we interviewed 253 secondary students, approximately equal numbers of whom had completed each of the three required years of historical study; these interviews included students of both genders, from differing school types, in a variety of regions within Northern Ireland. We found that these students had experienced history in more complicated ways than has been evident in most previous research. They had learned about the past in a variety of formal and informal settings, and they navigated among these multiple sources in a conscious attempt to refine and extend their historical understanding, as they followed up on interests initiated in one setting by seeking out information elsewhere. Although some students simply assimilated this information into dominant community narratives, most were aware that such narratives can be used for contemporary political purposes, and they appreciated the fact that school history encouraged a more complete and balanced historical perspective, particularly by exposing them to the motivations and experiences of the other community. Even as they sought expanded historical viewpoints, however, they were unwilling to abandon the political commitments of their communities, and they sought greater contemporary relevance for history than they were likely to encounter in school. These students thus were not simply appropriating or resisting particular historical narratives; they were engaged in a more complex process that involved developing internally persuasive discourse as they drew from multiple historical discourses in an attempt to form their own point of view on the region’s troubled past. This research suggests that students in Northern Ireland and elsewhere might benefit from a curriculum that attends more directly to their active construction of historical meaning and supports them in constructing critical perspectives on the contemporary relevance of the past.
    LanguageEnglish
    Pages142-181
    JournalTeachers’ College Record
    Volume112
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

    Fingerprint

    discourse
    narrative
    history
    school
    student
    community
    school type
    political activity
    interview
    adolescent
    curriculum
    gender
    evidence
    experience

    Keywords

    • History Education
    • Identity
    • informal learning
    • formal learning
    • divided societies
    • education and conflict
    • enquiry-based history

    Cite this

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    title = "“You can form your own point of view”: Internally persuasive discourse in Northern Ireland Students’ encounters with History",
    abstract = "Research on historical understanding has sometimes depicted adolescents and adults as either appropriating or resisting particular narrative accounts, and resistance seems to be especially common when school-based narratives differ from those encountered outside school. In Northern Ireland, however, school history does not present an alternative narrative to community-based histories but takes a different approach altogether; school history represents an evidence-based, analytic subject that emphasizes multiple perspectives and avoids connections to contemporary identifications or political positions. In this study, we sought to understand how young people in Northern Ireland approached historical information both in school and, and how they made sense of conflicting perspectives on the past. Using qualitative, task-based interviews, we interviewed 253 secondary students, approximately equal numbers of whom had completed each of the three required years of historical study; these interviews included students of both genders, from differing school types, in a variety of regions within Northern Ireland. We found that these students had experienced history in more complicated ways than has been evident in most previous research. They had learned about the past in a variety of formal and informal settings, and they navigated among these multiple sources in a conscious attempt to refine and extend their historical understanding, as they followed up on interests initiated in one setting by seeking out information elsewhere. Although some students simply assimilated this information into dominant community narratives, most were aware that such narratives can be used for contemporary political purposes, and they appreciated the fact that school history encouraged a more complete and balanced historical perspective, particularly by exposing them to the motivations and experiences of the other community. Even as they sought expanded historical viewpoints, however, they were unwilling to abandon the political commitments of their communities, and they sought greater contemporary relevance for history than they were likely to encounter in school. These students thus were not simply appropriating or resisting particular historical narratives; they were engaged in a more complex process that involved developing internally persuasive discourse as they drew from multiple historical discourses in an attempt to form their own point of view on the region’s troubled past. This research suggests that students in Northern Ireland and elsewhere might benefit from a curriculum that attends more directly to their active construction of historical meaning and supports them in constructing critical perspectives on the contemporary relevance of the past.",
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    author = "Alan McCully and K.C. Barton",
    note = "Reference text: Almarza, D. J. (2001). Contexts shaping minority language students’ perceptions of American history. Journal of Social Studies Research, 25, 4-22. Bakhtin, M. M. (1982). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press. Barton, K. C. (2001a). A sociocultural perspective on children’s understanding of historical change: Comparative findings from Northern Ireland and the United States. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 881-913. Barton, K. C. (2001b). “You’d be wanting to know about the past’: Social contexts of children’s historical understanding in Northern Ireland and the United States. Comparative Education 37, 89-106. Barton, K. C. (2008). Students’ ideas about history. In L. S. Levstik & C. A. Tyson (Eds.), Handbook of research on social studies (pp. 239-258). New York: Routledge. Barton, K. C., & Levstik, L. S. (1998). “It wasn’t a good part of history”: Ambiguity and identity in middle grade students’ judgments of historical significance. Teachers College Record, 99, 478-513. Barton, K. C., & Levstik, L. S. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Barton, K. C., & McCully, A. W. (2005). History, identity, and the school curriculum in Northern Ireland: An empirical study of secondary students’ ideas and perspectives. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37, 85-116. Barton, K. C., & McCully, A. W. (2008, March). “Trying to look at both sides”: Negotiating school and community history in Northern Ireland. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York. Barton, K. C., McCully, A. W., & Conway, M. (2003). History education and national Identity in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 3. Journal online at http://www.ex.ac.uk/historyresource/journalstart.htm Bodnar, J. E. (1992). Remaking America: Public memory, commemoration, and patriotism in the twentieth century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Brophy, J., & VanSledright, B. (1997). Teaching and learning history in elementary schools. New York: Teachers College Press. Buckley, A. D., & Kenney, M. C. (1995). Negotiating identity: Rhetoric, metaphor, and social drama in Northern Ireland. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Cole, M. (1998). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment. (2003). Pathways towards a more coherent, enjoyable, motivating and relevant curriculum for young people aged 11-14, Belfast, Northern Ireland: Author. Department of Education, Northern Ireland. (1996). The Northern Ireland curriculum, key stages 3 and 4: Programmes of study and attainment targets. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Department of Education, Northern Ireland. Eder, D., & Fingerson, L. (2002). Interviewing children and adolescents. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 181-201). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Education and Training Inspectorate (2006). History matters: Report of a survey on the extent to which the teaching of history in post-primary schools helps prepare young people to live in Northern Ireland’s divided and increasingly pluralist society. Bangor, Northern Ireland: Department of Education Northern Ireland. Epstein, T. (1998). Deconstructing differences in African-American and European-American Adolescents’ perspectives on U. S. history. Curriculum Inquiry, 28, 397-423. Epstein, T .(2000). Adolescents’ perspectives on racial diversity in U.S. history: Case studies from an urban classroom. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 185-214. Goodrich, F., & Hackett, A. (1994). The diary of Anne Frank. In A.N. Applebee, et al. (Eds.), McDougal, Littell literature and language, green level (pp. 495-568). Evanston, IL: McDougal, Littell. Grant, S. G. (2004). History lessons: Teaching, learning, and testing in U.S. high school classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Jarman, N. (1998). Material conflicts: Parades and visual displays in Northern Ireland. New York: Berg. Kelly, G. A. (1955) The psychology of personal constructs, vol. 1: A theory of personality. New York: Norton. Kitson, A. (2007). History education and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. In E. A. Cole (ed.), Teaching the violent past: History education and reconciliation (pp. 123-154). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2000). Focus group interviews: A practical guide for applied research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (1996). “They still use some of their past”: Historical salience in children’s chronological thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 28, 531-576. Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (2008). Researching history education: Theory, method, and context. New York: Routledge. McBride, I. (1997). The Siege of Derry in Ulster Protestant mythology. Dublin: Four Courts Press. McCombe, J. (2006). School history and the introduction of Local and Global Citizenship into the Northern Ireland curriculum: The views of history teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Ulster, Coleraine. McCully, A. (2006). Practitioner perceptions of their role in facilitating the handling of controversial issues in contested societies: A Northern Irish experience. Educational Review, 58, 51-65. McCully, A., & Pilgrim, N. (2004). “They took Ireland away from us and we’ve got to fight to get it back”: Using fictional characters to explore the relationship between historical interpretation and contemporary attitudes. Teaching History, 114, 17-21. McCully, A., Pilgrim, N., Sutherland, A., & McMinn, T. (2002). “Don’t worry Mr. Trimble, we can handle it”: Balancing the rational and emotional in the teaching of contentious topics. Teaching History, 105, 6-12. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. 2nd ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Mosborg, S. (2002). Speaking of history: How adolescents use their knowledge of history in reading the daily news. Cognition and Instruction, 20, 323-358. Nash, G. B., Crabtree, C. A., & Dunn, R. (1997). History on trial: Culture wars and the teaching of the past. New York: Random House. Phillips, R. (1998). History teaching, nationhood and the state: A study in educational politics. London: Cassell. Porat, D. A. (2004). It’s not written here, but this is what happened: Students’ cultural comprehension of textbook narratives on the Israeli-Arab conflict. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 963-996. Porat, D. A. (2006). Who fired first? Students’ construction of meaning from one textbook account of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Curriculum Inquiry, 36, 251-271. Ryle, A. (1975). Frames and cages: The repertory grid approach to human understanding. New York: International Universities Press. Scheer, J. W. (1996). A short introduction to personal construct psychology. In J. W. Scheer and Ana Catina (Eds.), Empirical constructivism in Europe: The personal construct approach (pp. 13-17) Giessen, Germany: Psychosozial Verlag. Seixas, P. (1993). Historical understanding among adolescents in a multicultural setting. Curriculum Inquiry, 23, 301–327. Seixas, P. (2002). Heave baggage en route to Winnipeg: A review essay. Canadian Historical Review, 83, 390-414. Spector, K. (2007). God on the gallows: Reading the Holocaust through narratives of redemption. Research in the Teaching of English, 42, 7-55. Spector, K., & Jones, S. (2007). Constructing Anne Frank: Critical literacy and the holocaust in eighth-grade English. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 51, 36-48. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Taylor, T. (2004). Disputed territory: The politics of historical consciousness in Australia. In P. Seixas (ed.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 217-239). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Thornton, S. J. (2005). Teaching social studies that matters: Curriculum for active learning. New York: Teachers College Press. VanSledright, B. A. (1997). And Santayana lives on: Students’ views on the purposes for studying American history. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 29, 529-557. VanSledright, B. (2002). In search of America’s past: Learning to read history in elementary school. New York: Teachers College Press. Walker, B. M. (1996). Dancing to history’s tune: History, myth, and politics in Ireland. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast. Wertsch, J. V. (2002). Voices of collective remembering. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford University Press. Wiesel, E. (1982). Night. New York: Bantam. Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Terzian, S., & Yeager, E. A. (2007). “That’s when we became a nation”: Urban Latino adolescents and the designation of historical significance. Urban Education, 42, 52-81.",
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    “You can form your own point of view”: Internally persuasive discourse in Northern Ireland Students’ encounters with History. / McCully, Alan; Barton, K.C.

    In: Teachers’ College Record, Vol. 112, No. 1, 01.2010, p. 142-181.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - “You can form your own point of view”: Internally persuasive discourse in Northern Ireland Students’ encounters with History

    AU - McCully, Alan

    AU - Barton, K.C.

    N1 - Reference text: Almarza, D. J. (2001). Contexts shaping minority language students’ perceptions of American history. Journal of Social Studies Research, 25, 4-22. Bakhtin, M. M. (1982). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press. Barton, K. C. (2001a). A sociocultural perspective on children’s understanding of historical change: Comparative findings from Northern Ireland and the United States. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 881-913. Barton, K. C. (2001b). “You’d be wanting to know about the past’: Social contexts of children’s historical understanding in Northern Ireland and the United States. Comparative Education 37, 89-106. Barton, K. C. (2008). Students’ ideas about history. In L. S. Levstik & C. A. Tyson (Eds.), Handbook of research on social studies (pp. 239-258). New York: Routledge. Barton, K. C., & Levstik, L. S. (1998). “It wasn’t a good part of history”: Ambiguity and identity in middle grade students’ judgments of historical significance. Teachers College Record, 99, 478-513. Barton, K. C., & Levstik, L. S. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Barton, K. C., & McCully, A. W. (2005). History, identity, and the school curriculum in Northern Ireland: An empirical study of secondary students’ ideas and perspectives. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37, 85-116. Barton, K. C., & McCully, A. W. (2008, March). “Trying to look at both sides”: Negotiating school and community history in Northern Ireland. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York. Barton, K. C., McCully, A. W., & Conway, M. (2003). History education and national Identity in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 3. Journal online at http://www.ex.ac.uk/historyresource/journalstart.htm Bodnar, J. E. (1992). Remaking America: Public memory, commemoration, and patriotism in the twentieth century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Brophy, J., & VanSledright, B. (1997). Teaching and learning history in elementary schools. New York: Teachers College Press. Buckley, A. D., & Kenney, M. C. (1995). Negotiating identity: Rhetoric, metaphor, and social drama in Northern Ireland. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Cole, M. (1998). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment. (2003). Pathways towards a more coherent, enjoyable, motivating and relevant curriculum for young people aged 11-14, Belfast, Northern Ireland: Author. Department of Education, Northern Ireland. (1996). The Northern Ireland curriculum, key stages 3 and 4: Programmes of study and attainment targets. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Department of Education, Northern Ireland. Eder, D., & Fingerson, L. (2002). Interviewing children and adolescents. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 181-201). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Education and Training Inspectorate (2006). History matters: Report of a survey on the extent to which the teaching of history in post-primary schools helps prepare young people to live in Northern Ireland’s divided and increasingly pluralist society. Bangor, Northern Ireland: Department of Education Northern Ireland. Epstein, T. (1998). Deconstructing differences in African-American and European-American Adolescents’ perspectives on U. S. history. Curriculum Inquiry, 28, 397-423. Epstein, T .(2000). Adolescents’ perspectives on racial diversity in U.S. history: Case studies from an urban classroom. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 185-214. Goodrich, F., & Hackett, A. (1994). The diary of Anne Frank. In A.N. Applebee, et al. (Eds.), McDougal, Littell literature and language, green level (pp. 495-568). Evanston, IL: McDougal, Littell. Grant, S. G. (2004). History lessons: Teaching, learning, and testing in U.S. high school classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Jarman, N. (1998). Material conflicts: Parades and visual displays in Northern Ireland. New York: Berg. Kelly, G. A. (1955) The psychology of personal constructs, vol. 1: A theory of personality. New York: Norton. Kitson, A. (2007). History education and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. In E. A. Cole (ed.), Teaching the violent past: History education and reconciliation (pp. 123-154). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2000). Focus group interviews: A practical guide for applied research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (1996). “They still use some of their past”: Historical salience in children’s chronological thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 28, 531-576. Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (2008). Researching history education: Theory, method, and context. New York: Routledge. McBride, I. (1997). The Siege of Derry in Ulster Protestant mythology. Dublin: Four Courts Press. McCombe, J. (2006). School history and the introduction of Local and Global Citizenship into the Northern Ireland curriculum: The views of history teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Ulster, Coleraine. McCully, A. (2006). Practitioner perceptions of their role in facilitating the handling of controversial issues in contested societies: A Northern Irish experience. Educational Review, 58, 51-65. McCully, A., & Pilgrim, N. (2004). “They took Ireland away from us and we’ve got to fight to get it back”: Using fictional characters to explore the relationship between historical interpretation and contemporary attitudes. Teaching History, 114, 17-21. McCully, A., Pilgrim, N., Sutherland, A., & McMinn, T. (2002). “Don’t worry Mr. Trimble, we can handle it”: Balancing the rational and emotional in the teaching of contentious topics. Teaching History, 105, 6-12. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. 2nd ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Mosborg, S. (2002). Speaking of history: How adolescents use their knowledge of history in reading the daily news. Cognition and Instruction, 20, 323-358. Nash, G. B., Crabtree, C. A., & Dunn, R. (1997). History on trial: Culture wars and the teaching of the past. New York: Random House. Phillips, R. (1998). History teaching, nationhood and the state: A study in educational politics. London: Cassell. Porat, D. A. (2004). It’s not written here, but this is what happened: Students’ cultural comprehension of textbook narratives on the Israeli-Arab conflict. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 963-996. Porat, D. A. (2006). Who fired first? Students’ construction of meaning from one textbook account of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Curriculum Inquiry, 36, 251-271. Ryle, A. (1975). Frames and cages: The repertory grid approach to human understanding. New York: International Universities Press. Scheer, J. W. (1996). A short introduction to personal construct psychology. In J. W. Scheer and Ana Catina (Eds.), Empirical constructivism in Europe: The personal construct approach (pp. 13-17) Giessen, Germany: Psychosozial Verlag. Seixas, P. (1993). Historical understanding among adolescents in a multicultural setting. Curriculum Inquiry, 23, 301–327. Seixas, P. (2002). Heave baggage en route to Winnipeg: A review essay. Canadian Historical Review, 83, 390-414. Spector, K. (2007). God on the gallows: Reading the Holocaust through narratives of redemption. Research in the Teaching of English, 42, 7-55. Spector, K., & Jones, S. (2007). Constructing Anne Frank: Critical literacy and the holocaust in eighth-grade English. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 51, 36-48. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Taylor, T. (2004). Disputed territory: The politics of historical consciousness in Australia. In P. Seixas (ed.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 217-239). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Thornton, S. J. (2005). Teaching social studies that matters: Curriculum for active learning. New York: Teachers College Press. VanSledright, B. A. (1997). And Santayana lives on: Students’ views on the purposes for studying American history. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 29, 529-557. VanSledright, B. (2002). In search of America’s past: Learning to read history in elementary school. New York: Teachers College Press. Walker, B. M. (1996). Dancing to history’s tune: History, myth, and politics in Ireland. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast. Wertsch, J. V. (2002). Voices of collective remembering. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford University Press. Wiesel, E. (1982). Night. New York: Bantam. Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching the past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Terzian, S., & Yeager, E. A. (2007). “That’s when we became a nation”: Urban Latino adolescents and the designation of historical significance. Urban Education, 42, 52-81.

    PY - 2010/1

    Y1 - 2010/1

    N2 - Research on historical understanding has sometimes depicted adolescents and adults as either appropriating or resisting particular narrative accounts, and resistance seems to be especially common when school-based narratives differ from those encountered outside school. In Northern Ireland, however, school history does not present an alternative narrative to community-based histories but takes a different approach altogether; school history represents an evidence-based, analytic subject that emphasizes multiple perspectives and avoids connections to contemporary identifications or political positions. In this study, we sought to understand how young people in Northern Ireland approached historical information both in school and, and how they made sense of conflicting perspectives on the past. Using qualitative, task-based interviews, we interviewed 253 secondary students, approximately equal numbers of whom had completed each of the three required years of historical study; these interviews included students of both genders, from differing school types, in a variety of regions within Northern Ireland. We found that these students had experienced history in more complicated ways than has been evident in most previous research. They had learned about the past in a variety of formal and informal settings, and they navigated among these multiple sources in a conscious attempt to refine and extend their historical understanding, as they followed up on interests initiated in one setting by seeking out information elsewhere. Although some students simply assimilated this information into dominant community narratives, most were aware that such narratives can be used for contemporary political purposes, and they appreciated the fact that school history encouraged a more complete and balanced historical perspective, particularly by exposing them to the motivations and experiences of the other community. Even as they sought expanded historical viewpoints, however, they were unwilling to abandon the political commitments of their communities, and they sought greater contemporary relevance for history than they were likely to encounter in school. These students thus were not simply appropriating or resisting particular historical narratives; they were engaged in a more complex process that involved developing internally persuasive discourse as they drew from multiple historical discourses in an attempt to form their own point of view on the region’s troubled past. This research suggests that students in Northern Ireland and elsewhere might benefit from a curriculum that attends more directly to their active construction of historical meaning and supports them in constructing critical perspectives on the contemporary relevance of the past.

    AB - Research on historical understanding has sometimes depicted adolescents and adults as either appropriating or resisting particular narrative accounts, and resistance seems to be especially common when school-based narratives differ from those encountered outside school. In Northern Ireland, however, school history does not present an alternative narrative to community-based histories but takes a different approach altogether; school history represents an evidence-based, analytic subject that emphasizes multiple perspectives and avoids connections to contemporary identifications or political positions. In this study, we sought to understand how young people in Northern Ireland approached historical information both in school and, and how they made sense of conflicting perspectives on the past. Using qualitative, task-based interviews, we interviewed 253 secondary students, approximately equal numbers of whom had completed each of the three required years of historical study; these interviews included students of both genders, from differing school types, in a variety of regions within Northern Ireland. We found that these students had experienced history in more complicated ways than has been evident in most previous research. They had learned about the past in a variety of formal and informal settings, and they navigated among these multiple sources in a conscious attempt to refine and extend their historical understanding, as they followed up on interests initiated in one setting by seeking out information elsewhere. Although some students simply assimilated this information into dominant community narratives, most were aware that such narratives can be used for contemporary political purposes, and they appreciated the fact that school history encouraged a more complete and balanced historical perspective, particularly by exposing them to the motivations and experiences of the other community. Even as they sought expanded historical viewpoints, however, they were unwilling to abandon the political commitments of their communities, and they sought greater contemporary relevance for history than they were likely to encounter in school. These students thus were not simply appropriating or resisting particular historical narratives; they were engaged in a more complex process that involved developing internally persuasive discourse as they drew from multiple historical discourses in an attempt to form their own point of view on the region’s troubled past. This research suggests that students in Northern Ireland and elsewhere might benefit from a curriculum that attends more directly to their active construction of historical meaning and supports them in constructing critical perspectives on the contemporary relevance of the past.

    KW - History Education

    KW - Identity

    KW - informal learning

    KW - formal learning

    KW - divided societies

    KW - education and conflict

    KW - enquiry-based history

    M3 - Article

    VL - 112

    SP - 142

    EP - 181

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