Have methods for teaching history advanced as much as technology? Today's teachers enter the education field with university degrees, deep commitment and passion. In addition, they're technologically savvy. But according to a study (in English and Spanish), the teaching methods they have been exposed to have not evolved with technological advances. The lecture model prevails.
In fact, 78% of survey respondents claimed that their primary role in university courses was to listen to their instructors and take notes. Only half said they used computers very often in class, and only 6% said they visited museums or historical sites during their degree. These results are similar for students who studied in Ontario or elsewhere.
Researchers discovered a strong desire in teachers to adopt new ways of teaching. Yet the history curriculum has not been adapted to today's students.
Professor Stéphane Lévesque of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education notes that teachers see incredible value in inquiry-based historical projects that encourage a more active history curriculum. They recognize that classroom engagement would improve significantly with these methods. Yet, as he observes, teacher education students are still confronted with conventional teaching methods, activities and sources of information. Without discounting the relevance of some of these approaches, it is evident that history courses and teacher-education programs should make greater efforts to offer teachers more tools and first-hand experience in using historical sources of information in this digital age.
Johanne, a university graduate from Quebec, concurs: I feel that lecture and textbook readings are very much part of a traditional teaching method that I am trying to break away from.
Professor Lévesque argues that students of history need to be more like detectives, forensically examining original archives and sites of memory instead of relying on textbooks and lectures. For this to happen, however, teachers need the proper tools. Ten years ago, Lévesque created the Virtual Historian, an online library program that houses hundreds of digitized documents, photographs, newsreels and other archival materials. Instead of listening to a lecture, students can follow timelines themselves to discover how events unfolded and develop their own evidence-based arguments. Teachers can also share own lessons through social media such as Twitter.
There is compelling evidence that what our student teachers learn and how they learn it as students themselves has a significant impact on their own pedagogical practices, which, in turn, affects the education of the next generation of Canadians.
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