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.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mapping the Historical Consciousness of 7th Graders.

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

At the risk of self-promotion, I would like to draw your attention to a research note that has just been published in the Journal of New Brunswick Studies. As a graduate student who has devoted the past 5 years to exploring the phenomenon of historical consciousness, I am (needless-to-say) thrilled and honoured to see a small piece of my research published in a scholarly journal.

All this aside, the findings also warrant further discussion, since they provide an intriguing glimpse into an age group less commonly discussed in conversations around historical consciousness and historical thinking in Canada. The data was collected as part of a pre-survey that expanded upon the Canadians and their Pasts (2013) investigation with an entire class of Anglophone 7th graders.  In working with this group of students, I had the privilege of learning a little bit more about their relationship with the past, and the narratives that they carry. Over a period of 15 weeks, we worked together to explore a material history framework for historical thinking in museums, which served as a cultural tool for deepening students’ historical consciousness.

As Stéphane Levesque (2014) has pointed out, “the study of historical consciousness makes it possible to understand how people use the past.” For the students participating in this inquiry, it was evident that they initially used the past to situate themselves within a Canada narrative of privilege and war. These “broad pictures” for remembering represented common themes that (just as Levesque has indicated) served as “backdrops” for acquiring new knowledge. For these students, their themes of privilege and war were predominantly optimistic.

In somewhat contradiction to this optimism, however, many of the students paralleled this schema with more pessimistic perceptions about change over time. In this regard the students were very unlike adult samplings in the larger Canadians and Their Pasts study. Hence, rather than perceiving things as getting better over time, nearly half (42%) of the students recognised progression as a contradiction. For these students, while technology had made life easier, the resulting pollution and conflict had also made life worse. In this sense, students’ narratives of privilege seemed to be somewhat at odds with their beliefs in change over time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Adapting Documents for the Classroom: Equity and Access


What Is It?
Preparing and modifying primary source documents so that all students can read and analyze them in their history classrooms.

Although they are useful for engaging students in the past, and teaching them to think historically, primary source documents often use antiquated or complex language. This can pose a challenge even for able readers, let alone those who read below grade level. Adapting a variety of historical documents for use in the classroom will allow students greater access to important reading and thinking opportunities.

Adapting documents for the classroom includes the use of excerpts, helpful head notes, and clear source information. It means adjusting documents for non-expert readers and making them shorter, clearer, and more focused. Adaptations can also include simplifying syntax and vocabulary, conventionalizing punctuation and spelling, cutting nonessential passages, and directing attention to a document's key components.

Read more..