Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Margaret MacMillan Launches the 2015 CBC Massey Lectures

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey, PhD
University of New Brunswick

What makes good leaders? This was the question that framed Margaret MacMillan’s opening lecture in the 2015 CBC Massey Tour, which commenced last week in Fredericton. It was the first in a series, including stops in St. John’s, as well as upcoming lectures in Victoria (September 30), Calgary (October 2), and Toronto (October 7). During each presentation, MacMillan draws from her recent publication History’s People: Personalities and the Past (2015), to explore the qualities (both positive and negative) of individuals who have shaped the world in which we live.

In this first lecture, Dr. MacMillan focussed upon leadership and the art of persuasion. Drawing from the examples of Otto von Bismarck, as well as William Lyon MacKenzie King, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, MacMillan laid out an interesting argument for “good leadership.” Good leadership, MacMillan explained, demonstrates four key characteristics:

1. Timing and opportunity;
2. Instinct and determination;
3. Capacity to bring others along; and
4. Driving ambition.

MacMillan began by elaborating upon the political career of Otto von Bismarck. She described in colourful detail how the Prussian leader ruthlessly bullied his way into power – through good luck and good timing. Thus, by adopting a complex strategy of international trickery, von Bismarck managed to bring about a union of German states. He possessed few admirable qualities. He was determined, ruthless, and did not worry about principles – yet was opportunely elected to Prussian parliament at a time when things were beginning to change.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Reinvent Project Based Learning to Be More Meaningful

By Thom Markham
March 24, 2014

This is a crucial time for education. Every system in every country is in the process of figuring out how to reboot education to teach skills, application, and attitude in addition to recall and understanding. Helping students be able to grapple with increased problem solving and inquiry, be better critical and creative thinkers, show greater independence and engagement, and exhibit skills as presenters and collaborators is the challenge of the moment.

That’s why so many educators are using the project based learning (PBL) model. PBL has proven to be a means for setting up the kind of problem-solving challenges that engage students in deeper learning and critical inquiry. It requires students to research, collaborate, decide on the value of information and evidence, accept feedback, design solutions, and present findings in a public space—all factors that create the conditions under which high performance and mastery are most likely to emerge. The rise of PBL, in fact, is a success story for education.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

De-constructing Cabinets of Curiosity: Arts-based Inquiry Project in Historical Thinking

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey
PhD candidate
University of New Brunswick

This arts-based inquiry project was intended to complement and extend upon my PhD research, regarding how a heritage community can assist middle school students in deepening their historical consciousness. This activity specifically related to the photovoice component of my research. It was intended to serve two purposes: a) to extend and disseminate my research to a broader public audience, by facilitating the development of a gallery-style photo exhibition that illustrates students’ abilities (through their eyes and in their words) of engaging in historical inquiry within a local history museum; and b) to reveal the nature of their ability to think historically in a museum

Read my full report here...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Using artifacts to teach social studies: What’s the story?

Credit: Melynda Jarratt, New Brunswick
Sports Hall of Fame, 2015
By Cynthia Wallace-Casey
PhD candidate
University of New Brunswick

In the interest of expanding upon my previous blog contributions, I’d like to introduce you to a project I’m currently working on, which involves object-based learning. Collaborating with a provincial history museum (The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame), we are currently developing a unit of study that focuses specifically upon artifacts, sport, and war. Through a series of six lesson plans, teachers will be able to access a variety of primary and second sources, to compare and extend upon the artifact source, and thus reconstruct a “story” around each individual owner. This involves adopting a particular disciplinary approach to the past, which is commonly referred to as “material history” or “material culture.”

Material history, as often practiced in object-centered history museums, represents a unique approach to historical inquiry. As Hood (2009) has pointed out, “most historians are not equipped to do object-centered research” (p.177). For this reason, the challenge of “reading” an object that does not contain words, can be daunting for most anyone, if they have not learned the craft of material history inquiry.

With my own dissertation research involving seventh grade students, I found that participants particular enjoyed the sense of unbridled wonder that came from approaching their museum as a collection source. Object-based inquiry, although challenging for all, was also doable by all. Students quickly picked up on the technique, and in the process broke away from the official museum story, to create their own sense of meaning – a meaning that was grounded in evidence.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hope Restored: New Brunswick's Flag Turns 50

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey
PhD candidate,
University of New Brunswick

February 24 marks the 50th anniversary of New Brunswick’s flag.  This historic semicentennial follows less than two weeks behind the adoption of Canada’s national flag.  Unlike in Ottawa’s House of Commons, however, where the flag debate spiraled down in some instances to accusations of political partisanship and linguistic slurs, the development of New Brunswick’s flag took on far less controversial tones.

This is because New Brunswick had already been assigned armorial bearings by Queen Victoria in 1868; a design that was to "…be borne for the said respective Provinces on seals, shields, banners, flags or otherwise, according to the laws of arms."[1]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Reading that Has Helped Change my View of History Education: Nokes' Learning to Read and Reason

Book Review by Cynthia Wallace-Casey,
PhD Candidate
University of New Brunswick

Picture this:
"Ms. Cordova, the principal at McArthur Middle School, walks down the hall of the social studies department during third period. She notices the lights are off in Mr. Hanks’ classroom and, glancing in, observes that he is showing students a video. Most students are filling out a worksheet. Ms. Cordova is distracted by loud voices coming from the next classroom down the hall. As she approaches, she hears students reciting in unison the names of the presidents of the United States in chronological order… Finally Ms. Cordova sees Mr. Rich’s classroom, the class she has come to observe. As she enters, students’ behaviour appears somewhat chaotic… As Ms. Cordova approaches, Mr. Rich nervously welcomes her, inviting her to join the students’ discussions. Students pay little attention to her. They are looking at a black and white photograph of children working in a textile mill..." (Noke, 2013, p.3)

These words are drawn from the opening passage of Jeffrey Nokes’ publication Building Students’ Historical Literacies: Learning to Read and Reason with Historical texts and Evidence (2013). Having completed 13 weeks of fieldwork with a class of seventh-graders (exploring the role of evidence and sources in history education), I see great relevancy in Nokes’ words.

Through "quasi-autobiographical" vignettes that set the stage for each chapter, we enter into the world of the classroom teacher. In this way we are able to empathise with the challenges—as well as rewards—teachers face in integrating Historical Thinking concepts into history education. Indeed, as both Ronald Martinello and David Bussel have confided, the transition from a "Mr. Hanks" to a "Mr Rich" is not an easy task. Reflecting back on my own (relatively brief) classroom experience, such a transition in learning culture can be challenging at best; Nokes, however, demonstrates how it can be done.