The rationale for the project identified a number of major challenges currently confronting Europe’s democratic and diverse societies and their educational systems. How far these systems are capable of addressing these challenges successfully is a significant benchmark by which to determine the quality of an education system.
Education has a key role to play in providing young people with values, skills, attitudes, knowledge and critical understanding necessary to combat forms of extremism that threaten political and social stability. A vitally important task for history education is that of helping young people to know and understand the past in ways which enhance their ability to live constructively in today’s diverse and complex world.
The seminars will, therefore, focus on three major themes:
History education’s contribution to building diverse, inclusive societies
History and history education play an important role in shaping identities. Versions of the past can appear to lend legitimacy to identities by giving them the appearance of timeless continuity and, therefore, an ‘essential’ or ‘natural’ quality. This may become problematic when the cultural dominance of particular ethnic or national groups within the nation-state leads to the conflation of their interests and ‘culture’ with those of the nation-state as a whole, thus marginalising other ethnic or national groups. But history can also be utilised to help to emphasise more inclusive notions of identity. This capacity of history teaching becomes even more important now bearing in mind latest immigration waves in Europe.
Developing critical historical thinking in the digital age
Navigating in the space created by technology and the unprecedented access to information and social inter-change that it offers has many advantages. But at the same time young people have to acquire the strong analytical and interpretation skills and the powers of judgement, which will permit them to travel constructively and safely in this virtual world. They need to be helped to develop the critical antennae which will enable them to detect deliberate misinformation, recognise stereotypes and counter false arguments in ways which will strengthen their resistance to manipulation from whatever source.
In addition this part of the project could contribute to the development of the Digital citizenship education project.
Dealing with sensitive issues: the affective engagement of young people in the teaching and learning of history
This aspect has to do with recognising that history is necessarily values based subject – in terms, for example, of the choice of a particular body of content, or the way in which that chosen content is transmitted. It recognises also that the key words embodied in the project – ‘diversity’, ‘inclusivity’, ‘democracy’, ‘quality’ – involve both the making of value judgements and the active embracing of a given set of values on the part of both teacher and student.
Further, affective engagement of students is an element in helping to address questions such as: ‘How can history teachers enable students to deal with emotions stemming from collective (and sometimes manipulated) collective memory and commemoration?’ ‘How should history teachers approach the teaching of sensitive issues?
Within each of these themes participants will consider a number of sub-themes and develop materials illustrating the ways in which they might be addressed in the various aspects of history teaching and learning.
The development of these themes and sub-themes will help to analyse how the competences indicated in the new Framework of References of Competences for Democratic Culture: Teaching, Learning and Assessment could be used in pedagogical practices.
Working in small groups, participants will be tasked to produce proposals for exemplar curricular documents, lesson structures, teaching materials and strategies, and approaches to assessment on a chosen historical topic or theme. These exemplars should reflect what the group considers to be effective practice in the teaching of history for a specified age group, and they will be asked to justify their decisions. During the plenary sessions there will be opportunities for groups to share their materials and discuss their judgements.
In order to assist this work, participants will be invited to bring to the seminar relevant materials (e.g. curricular and policy documents, teaching materials, lesson plans, assessment strategies, good practice guides).
Reporting and results
Following each seminar there will be a regional report detailing:
- common elements and differences in curricula, in teaching and learning processes and in assessment emerging from the analysis of the collected data (objective 1);
- the range of approaches in assessing students’ performance in history and progress in competences relevant to the concept of democratic citizenship and democratic culture (objective 2);
- documents, materials and references representing examples of effective practice produced by the working groups and outcomes from the plenary discussions (objective 3);
- proposals on what makes for high quality in history education at the regional level.
The regional reports from phase one will inform the second phase of the project.