Identifying the past: An exploration of teaching and learning sensitive issues in history at secondary school level

Margaret Conway


My paper explores the apparent dichotomy between History as an academic school subject and information gleaned from the local myths which sustain the prejudices underpinning various community identities. Questions are asked about the extent to which school history can compete with external influences. Comparisons are made between students’ and teachers’ perceptions in two regions of the UK, Oxford in England and Mid Ulster in Northern Ireland. The findings appear to indicate that there are discrepancies between teachers’ and students’ views about the sources that are most influential in the learning process. I will suggest that these differences can be explained by not only conflicting interpretations of the nature of History as a discipline but also by the adopted methodological approach. However, the evidence suggests that History lessons in school make an important contribution to a young person’s knowledge of their country and, by inference, to the process of identity formation.

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