Discussing Difficult History in Elementary Schools: Preservice Teacher Preparation

Leigh, Katherine, Curriculum and Instruction - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Paulick, Judith, ED-CISE Department, University of Virginia
Trent, Stanley, ED-CISE Department, University of Virginia

Teacher preparation programs (TPPs) are expected to train preservice teachers (PSTs) who can transfer knowledge and skills into teaching practice. Because most elementary educators teach all subject areas (e.g., language arts, math, science, and social studies), TPPs aim to provide PSTs with opportunities to develop a breadth and depth of understanding of subject-specific content and pedagogy. Specifically, social studies requires that PSTs work toward proficiency in a range of skills and knowledge, including interdisciplinary topics (e.g., history and geography), contexts, inquiry, and civic engagement in a complex, multicultural world. Furthermore, PSTs must learn to engage with topics identified as “difficult history” and to integrate them into their curriculum and instruction. Situated within a politically and socially contentious state, a Mid-Atlantic University’s Education School’s Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSED) degree program faculty and leadership are interested in understanding how PSTs, who represent a range of backgrounds, experiences, and dispositions, respond to and use the curricular addition of teaching difficult history in their Social Studies Methods course. Through an exploratory case study, I sought to understand what teaching strategies PSTs use when practicing in a mixed-reality simulated environment after receiving explicit instruction on teaching difficult history topics. Additionally, I sought to understand the PSTs’ perceptions of enabling conditions and potential barriers in doing so and to understand in what ways their backgrounds and experiences relate to the content. Based on the study’s findings, I provided recommendations to the Education School’s BSED program stakeholders.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
elementary preservice teachers, teacher preparation programs, difficult or hard history, elementary social studies, mixed-reality simulation
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