Sunday, January 21, 2018

Language Rights and Place-based History Education

Image credit: Government of Canada, 
Department of Justice
By Cynthia Wallace-Casey, PhD 
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Ottawa 

As the only officially bilingual province in Canada, New Brunswick holds a unique position regarding history education and collaborative curriculum development. In this province, it is as if we stand between two linguistic divides—with one foot firmly planted in English-speaking Canada, and the other confidently placed within a French-speaking world. This is because, unlike other provinces and territories in Canada, New Brunswick maintains two distinct education systems that are separate and equal. This distinction is not just a privilege, but a right: a right that is firmly embedded within our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As indicated in section 16.1 of the 1982 Constitutional Act of Canada
(1) The English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities 
2) The role of the legislature and government of New Brunswick to preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges referred to subsection (1) is affirmed. 
In this sense, education and cultural identity operate hand-in-hand. For each linguistic group, school is not simply about “making the grade,” it is about preserving and promoting social responsibility to two linguistic communities. This educational philosophy is supported by the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), as well as the Council of Education Ministers of Canada (CEMC). More specifically, the Pan-Canadian French as a First Language Project (2002, 2012) of CEMC clearly articulates this belief. It recognizes that language is not just a communication tool, but also a thinking, learning, and identity-building tool (CEMC, 2002, p. 3). 

How such dynamics play out within New Brunswick’s social studies curriculum, is through respect for regionalism and diversity. Regionalism, in that New Brunswick joins with like-minded provinces to share curriculum resources; and diversity, in that the province’s two curriculum narratives reflect distinctions within New Brunswick’s linguistic communities. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Canadian Association for Foundations in Education - 2016 Outstanding Dissertation Recognition Award

Cynthia Wallace-Casey successfully defended her PhD dissertation, “Deepening Historical Consciousness Through Museum Fieldwork: Implications For Community-Based History Education,” with the guidance of Dr. Alan Sears. Her work makes a substantial contribution by extending the examination of the development of historical thinking from classrooms to the informal learning context of community museums. One of the most interesting contributions is the examination of how collaborative work in historical inquiry fosters new ways of thinking about history and history education not only for students, but also for staff and community volunteers who work in museums.

Alan states that her work does not fit neatly into any one of the three areas of foundations of education as described on the CAFE website, but it does make a substantial contribution to all three. 

We agree and are pleased to recognize the work of Dr. Wallace-Casey. She presented two papers and chaired a session yesterday, which I know other CAFE members attended.

Shirley Van Nuland, PhD.
1st Vice President
CAFE Chair, Awards Committee
UOIT Faculty of Education

May 31, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Family Ties by Andrea Terry (or More on the Challenges of Teaching with Museums)

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey, PhD 
University of New Brunswick 

There’s something about the experience of a Victorian Christmas that makes many of us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Our sense of nostalgia seems heightened by the festive season. Because of this, perhaps we’re more prone to let down our critical lens on the past, and simply enjoy the visual candy. Surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the season, we encounter compelling evidence to suggest that we can truly experience the past for real… as it once was. 

Andrea Terry, however, in her publication Family Ties: Living History in Canadian House Museums (2015), dispels such nostalgia, as she closely examines the annual Victorian Christmas programs at three Canadian house museums: Dundurn Castle in Hamilton Ontario, Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site in Montreal Quebec, and William Lyon Mackenzie House in Toronto Ontario. With a keen eye for cultural hegemony, Family Ties delves down beneath the sugary surface, to reveal how interpretive Christmas programs in each of these living history museums are actually a product of present-day values, place-based politics, and nationalistic agendas. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Challenges of Teaching with Museums

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey, PhD
University of New Brunswick

Did you know that there are more than 1,500 museums in Canada?  Museums encompass many disciplines of study, including history, science, nature, and the arts.  Their collections range from tangible objects to intangible ideas, and their methods of presentation range from static displays to participatory environments.

From a pedagogical point of view, museums present rich learning environments, where constructed narratives are communicated through the use of sight, sound, touch, smell, and emotion.  Within such narrative constructs, as Trofanenko and Segall (2014) have pointed out, pedagogy is often positioned “to assume particular assumptions, perspectives, and views about the world and its people” (p. 1).  In this sense, while museums can provide powerful sites for learning, they can also be exclusionary and restrictive.

As teaching tools, museums also present their own distinct challenges.  This is because what constitutes learning in a museum involves multiple sensory experiences, personal interaction, and extended learning outcomes that change over time.  For this reason, learning in a museum is seldom immediately apparent or easily assessed (Wertsch, 2002, p. 114; see also Falk & Dierking, 2000; Kelly, 2011; Wallace-Casey, 2013).  Falk and Dierking’s (2013) Contextual Model of Learning, identifies four broad contexts for analyzing learning in a museum setting: personal, sociocultural, physical, and temporal.  Such a model also acknowledges (regardless of age or subject discipline) that “Learning begins with the individual. Learning involves others. Learning takes place somewhere” (Falk & Dierking, 2002, p. 36), and learning continues over time (Falk & Dierking, 2013).  This model, while reminiscent of constructivist pedagogy, recognises the complex nature of learning in a museum, and calls for more robust measures for assessment that extend beyond mere appropriation of a desired narrative claim.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Student Narratives and Public Memory in Museums

Image credit: Matt Buck, Wikimedia
By Cynthia Wallace-Casey, PhD
University of New Brunswick

I would like to draw your attention to a history education symposium coming up on December 1 in London (England) at the Institute of Education. This seminar series brings together three international scholars to explore what young people know about the past and their sources of knowledge.

Dr. Jocelyn Letourneau, of Laval University (Quebec), will discuss a pragmatic approach to teaching history, intended to move students “outside the thinkable they’ve been accustomed to in living in a particular society and being subject to its broad representations.”

Dr. Arie Wilschut, of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, will focus his discussion on the Dutch national historical consciousness, in particular, “we” versus “they” perspectives when talking and writing about the past.

Dr. Stéphane Levesque, of the University of Ottawa, will discuss the function of narration in orientating a community (and the individuals who share a membership in that community) within the context of time and nation.

All of these presentations speak to historical consciousness as a reflection of the present. Indeed, as historian E. H. Carr (1990) once wrote, history is “an unending dialogue between the present and the past” (p. 55). In this sense, we “see” the past within the context of our present.

As Letourneau has pointed out, it can be initially difficult for students to step outside of the narrative to which they are accustomed, and to “see” the past from a different societal perspective. In this sense, while shared narratives can serve to orientate individuals as members of a community, they can also serve as blinders. My own research focused upon narrative constructs in a community history museum. Over a period of 14 weeks, an entire class of seventh-graders explored the use of evidence and sources in the museum.

The promise of historical thinking in museums rests with enabling students to interact with museum narratives, using more than pre-existing “mythistoires” (Létourneau , 2014) as their single point of comparison for validating or denying historical claims (Husbands, 1996; van Boxtel, 2010; van Drie & van Boxtel, 2008; Létourneau, 2014; Nakou, 2006; Trofanenko, 2008). As Jones (2014) and Savenije et al. (2014) have found, when museum collections are used simply to support a particular narrative claim (rather than reflect critically upon that claim), students in this age group accept the authority of the museum, while selectively adapting portions of the narrative to reinforce their own pre-existing understandings of the past. In this way, they re-interpret and rationalize portions of the museum narrative to accommodate their own world-view.