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This information helps us design a better experience for all users. To learn more about cookies, please see our cookie policy. To learn more about how we use and protect your data, please see our privacy policy. Computer Technology 1. Homi K. Nayar Author Individuals interpret past texts to enrich understanding.

The historian reads texts to construct significant interpretations of past events. The NLH report questioned the nature and purposes of history education3 and postulated that problems existed with how history was taught and learnt. The NLH report cautions that historians4 are not free to imagine and construct the past at will without proper use of evidence; historical interpretations are conditioned by available evidence. Historians undertake creative processes to construct historical narratives. As stated earlier, they question past texts traces and records of the past to ascertain their value.

I will pick this idea up later in this section. Historians engage with texts, bring their meaning back to the present and construct historical narratives. Students too must be taught to question texts to turn these into evidence and information to be used in the construction of historical narratives. Seixas and Morton call this historical thinking. Seixas and Morton argued that we can never rely on one source when studying the past.

It is important to corroborate evidence to construct the most detailed and justified account of the past. It is important for students to approach texts in a similar matter to historians. The act of critically assessing and corroborating the evidence provided by a past text teaches students to understand the human hand in the creation of these texts, which are created for a purpose. Corroboration is a crucial element of historical reconstruction. What I will call the historical or disciplinary interpretation of past texts is an important element of history teaching and learning.

However, I wish to add to an understanding of interpretation and understanding in the history classroom. Therefore, this thesis presents the interpretation of texts in the history classroom in another manner, one that enriches the valuable work that exists in the literature of history teaching and learning and looks at it in a new light. The contemporary literature in history education advocates that students be taught the processes of historical thinking to interpret past texts. This process of interpretation is predicated on the critical reading of texts.


The aim is to not only reconstruct past events, and understand the significant effects of these events, but to understand human nature. I expand and enrich an understanding of what occurs to teachers and students in the interpretation of past texts. I then apply this interpretation to the question of understanding in the history classroom. Again, this expands an understanding of the type of understanding that occurs in the experience of the history classroom.

In its broadest 4 sense, hermeneutics is the interpretation of past texts. But, it is an elusive entity. The interpretation of past texts in the history classroom is a varied and complicated experience. It belongs to the human experience of the world. Hans-Georg Gadamer stated: The understanding and the interpretation of texts is not merely a concern of science, but obviously belongs to human experience of the world in general.

The hermeneutic phenomenon is basically not a problem of method at all. It is not concerned with a method of understanding by means of which texts are subjected to scientific investigation like all other objects of experience. It is not concerned with amassing verified knowledge, such as would satisfy the methodological ideal of science—yet it too is concerned with knowledge and truth. In understanding tradition, not only are texts understood, but insights are acquired and truths known. London: Continuum Publishing Group, , xxi.

I describe an understanding of history education which does not exclude historical thinking or critical reconstruction in the classroom where students engage in dialogue to develop a rich understanding of human nature. Interpretation and understanding in the history classroom also effects the individuals involved.

Teachers and students are involved in self-formation, or the individual concept of Bildung. It is the limits of what we can see from our particular situation and point in time. Horizons orient us, but also confine us; individuals would be completely disorientated without one. Both aspects of interpretation and their application to the classroom contribute to a rich, and complex, understanding of history education. As Gadamer did not discount science in Truth and Method, only claiming it does not have a monopoly on truth, I present an understanding of history education that can be incorporated as one task of the history classroom.

My privilege comes from my experience as a teacher in a high school history classroom, and my time as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia UBC. I was taught the disciplinary or historical thinking16 approach to history teaching and learning in the undergraduate social studies education courses I took at UBC in Students gained opportunities to develop competencies in historical thinking, study traces of the past, think about the nature of history, reconstruct the past, and make ethical decisions in the present.

As a history teacher, the daily reality of teaching historical thinking to students taught me the importance of teaching students to critically engage with past texts.

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Consequently, I continuously search for opportunities to teach this to students. Another important element of my history classroom was discussion or conversation. As a student I was taught the importance of conversation for learning, and I worked to provide students opportunities to engage in conversations on a variety of topics—including an understanding of human nature and what it means to belong in this world. While often fruitful to reinforce learning, I felt I had an inadequate understanding of how individuals communicate with each other, group dynamics, what occurs in conversation, and how to reach an enriched understanding of the subject matter in conversation.

I was particularly concerned with how to assess the conversation so as to determine student learning objectives were being met. I embraced these important ideas when I began the M. My graduate courses enriched the practical knowledge obtained as a teacher. I was introduced to a host of readings about philosophy, pedagogy, dialogue, historical thinking, historical consciousness, history education, the philosophy of history, and history teaching and learning.

In class, I reveled in the conversations with fellow students and professors and was introduced to numerous new ways of thinking. I constantly reflected on my own thinking about history education, history, philosophy, and education. Primarily, my reading of Gadamer and then Truth and Method led me to enrich my understanding of what occurs often, as Gadamer would say, above our wanting or knowing in the history classroom when we engage in hermeneutic dialogue with past texts. I came to realize that the articles and books I was reading on history, history education, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of dialogue and education had a place in an understanding of the history classroom.

An understanding of the history education can be enriched through the application of philosophical hermeneutics to interpretation and understanding in the history classroom. Critical reconstruction and hermeneutic or dialogical understanding may exist in the same space— the history classroom. My situation within the tradition of history education means that I seek to find an answer to the question: How can I contribute to an enriched understanding of history education?

The question of history education has guided my dialogue with Truth and Method. My primary research questions are: 1. What is missing from the Anglophone history education literature that could be supplemented by Gadamerian hermeneutics? What could authentic dialogue in the history classroom look like? What are the implications of [authentic dialogue? Following my description of history education is a demonstration of the impacts this understanding of history education has for Bildung, pedagogy, curriculum, teacher education, and classroom materials.

I hope to achieve a marriage of the conceptual with the practical. Interpretation and understanding must be applied to the situation in which we find ourselves. Each chapter pertains to one specific research question listed above. The four research questions relate to the overarching question this thesis seeks to answer: How might we describe the interpretation of pasts by teachers and students in the history classroom?

The first chapter introduction , sets the context for my thesis. The second chapter, 2 I review the literature that encompasses the Anglophone tradition18 of history education. In the third chapter, 3 I provide an interpretation of philosophical hermeneutics in Truth and Method. In this chapter I interpret the fundamental concepts of tradition, prejudice, fore-conception, historical effect, experience of negativity, hermeneutic circle, and dialogue.

I assert that the specific movement from textual record to speech through dialogue explicates an understanding of history teaching and learning. It is when we engage in dialogue with a text by asking questions that the truth claims of the text are brought into this speech act dialogue and are able to shape our understandings of a particular subject matter.

Finally, in the fifth chapter, 5 I explain the type of education, Bildung, that may be achieved through the pursuit of dialogue with past texts and the implications of this for teachers and students. I also examine the implications of the first three chapters and Bildung for pedagogy, curriculum, teacher education, and the classroom materials of history education.

In the sixth chapter conclusion , I describe the contributions to knowledge mad by this thesis and espouse the further research necessary to continue our understanding of history education. This literature review is comprised of research from Britain, Canada, and the United States. This chapter is divided into four sections. First, 1 I review the purpose of history education and its evolution since the nineteenth century.

Second, 2 I document the development of historical thinking, and the methodological or disciplinary approach to the interpretation of texts in the history classroom. Third, 3 I focus on the description of dialogue in the literature. This section is critical in order to identify the gap that may be filled by Gadamerian hermeneutics.

Finally, 4 I bridge the literature on history education with philosophical hermeneutics. This section foreshadows what is to come in chapters three and four. There is also literature pertaining to the French tradition of history education in Canada, but it too lies beyond the scope of this thesis. Peter Seixas n. Seixas, "Schweigen! Die Kinder!

Peter N. Stearns, Peter C. Seixas, and Samuel S. Intended to demonstrate the progressive nature of the state and enforce this sense of collective identity, history curricula were constructed around grand historical narratives that presented a unified and common national identity. These universal representations of the past presented to students became dogmatic propositions— closed from interpretation, revision, and re-presentation.

This could lead to the socialization of students into an accepted social and political tradition. David Pace argued for an approach to history teaching and learning where students become exposed to multiple historical perspectives and become critical participants in society. The development of historical thinking competencies, and an understanding of historical effect on the present, are seen as prerequisites for students to become engaged and critical participants in society—rather than passive bystanders enthralled with the collective identity in which they have found themselves thrown.

In Canada, Peter Seixas argued that the history classroom has a role in society that goes beyond the creation of public memory and preserving collective identity. Seixas outlines questions the 25 Ibid. Ruth W. Sandwell Toronto: University of Toronto Press, , The study of history whether through historical thinking processes or philosophical hermeneutics has the potential to lead to deeper understandings of human nature and the multifarious experience of being human. Wineburg argued that the study of human behaviour leads to the recognition that humans are more than the labels of race, wealth, geographic location assigned at birth.

How did things get to be as we see them today? Which aspects are signs of continuity over time, and which are signs of change? How should we judge each other's past actions? Are things basically getting better or are they getting worse? What stories about the past should I believe? On what grounds? Oliver Stone's account in JFK? Daniel Goldhagen's explanation of the Holocaust? Marc Starowicz's history of Canada? Which stories shall we tell? What about the past is significant enough to pass on to others, and particularly to the next generation?

Is there anything we can do to make things better? These skills aid in understanding past events and using these lessons to make decisions in the present. Great Britain, Canada, and the United States possess a rich written tradition of history teaching and learning predicated on the academic discipline of historical study; a body of literature that works towards a progression away from cultivation through memorization. I present the development of historical thinking in the following section organized according to the country in which the literature originates.

Sarah Drake Brown sees this as a crucial aspect of history teaching and learning. The history classroom is an opportunity for students to engage with the remnants traces of the past. The NLH report cautions that historians and students are not free to imagine and construct the past at will without proper use of evidence; in other words, the available evidence conditions historical interpretations. Evidence is necessary to construct historical narratives. Therefore, exposure to various forms of evidence such as primary documents, secondary sources, artefacts, museums, and historic sites helps teach students the importance of providing evidentiary support for their claims about the past.

Historical thinking focuses on questioning sources to ascertain their reliability and value to the historian. Drake and Brown stated that reading sources for facts or test material is insufficient. Through the act of questioning a source, students are taught to view it as a human document created for a purpose and as such must be corroborated.

Historical Thinking. The NLH report states that history is an inquiry into the raw materials of the past; the intention being to narrate what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. Peter Lee and Rosalyn Ashby argued that history education should focus on the development of second-order or procedural thinking in students. Lee stated these second-order thinking concepts42 are crucial to the discipline of history and therefore crucial to history education.

Students may become intellectually equipped to deal with varying perspectives and viewpoints that exist in the world through the development of competencies in these second-order concepts. As students critically assess various viewpoints from past texts, they work towards reconstructing the past and developing empathy—rather than naively assuming a dogmatic view of the world is preferable or sufficient.

Seixas, S. Wineburg, and P. In this thesis, I will refer to them as second-order thinking concepts. Lee and Shemilt argued that student progression in history education cannot be calculated by the quantity of facts remembered and regurgitated on an exam. In other words, students progress over time and develop greater competencies and more sophisticated ideas about the study of the past. Models cannot be hierarchical and ignore the developmental stages of youth.

Lee and D. This includes material that propagates an approach to history teaching and learning predicated on the development of competencies in historical thinking.

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Student competence in historical thinking and understanding the problems associated with historical study a disciplinary approach to history teaching and learning is a crucial aspect of achieving the purposes of history education outlined in the previous section. Bain argued that a simple demonstration of the historical thinking processes leads to an elementary or surface level of student competency. In other words, the metahistorical concepts should be taught to students in history education. Bain, "They thought the world was flat?

Bransford and S. Thus, this type of history classroom fails to provide students with the skills and competencies necessary to become critical participants in a democratic society. In response, the contemporary research in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States proposes the curtain be pulled up and students be allowed to attend rehearsals. Inquiry leads students away from memorization, teachers away from mere transmission, and transitions the classroom to a place predicated on asking important questions of history.

The study of the past has consequences for the present. The ability to think critically and make judgments is an important aspect of understanding the world. History education provides students with the ability to be independent thinkers and contribute to their own lives. Students analyze these documents 62 Ibid. In Canada, Seixas and Morton defined historical thinking as the creative processes historians use in the construction of historical narratives. They argued that the historical thinking concepts provide teachers with vocabulary to use while teaching students the processes in the construction of history and how to critically assess historical arguments.

Lastly, Seixas and Morton argued that we can never rely on one source when studying the past. In other words, the concepts provide the 77 Ibid. Conceptualizing the growth of historical understanding. In Handbook of education and human development: New models of learning, teaching and schooling, Edited by D. Torrance Oxford, UK: Blackwell, Thinking Historically: Educating students for the twenty-first Century.

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Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Curricula designed to develop historical thinking in students have the potential to transform the history classroom. As a result, students are seldom, if ever, given opportunities in the history classroom to engage in critical thinking, or work towards an understanding of the historical thinking processes used by historians, which in turns leads to critical participation in a democratic society.

Therefore, the narratives teachers present become a primary means of historical memory for students. In some sense, they are like directors of a play. Too often, our students see only the play. We want them to peer backstage, to understand how the ropes and pulleys work that make the play possible. Teachers often rely on textbooks, lectures, and the recitation of facts to be recalled on standardized assessments.

In the United States, Sam Wineburg, Daisy Martin, and Chauncey Monte-Sano argued that discussions concerning evidence can lead to a greater understanding of sourcing and analyzing primary documents. However, I purport later that dialogue is a different entity than discussion and conversation. Although Gadamer uses dialogue and conversation seemingly synonymously, I relate conversation more to discussion and dialogue as something separate.

Rather, the works make broad claims that dialogue helps student to source documents, understand the process of historical inquiry, and ultimately leads to a reconstruction of the past. The history classroom provides students opportunities to become a community of thinkers who contribute to an enriched conversation of the subject matter. In the Anglophone literature, discussion is seen to aid students both in their understanding of the historical thinking processes, while allowing for a comparison of understandings that can lead to discussions of evidence and its suitability for understanding the significance of past events.

What the literature does not address is the particular dialogue espoused in Truth and Method and its application to the interpretation of past texts. Historians belong to a scholarly community predicated and sustained upon conversation, scholarly conversation, peer critiques and feedback, and communally constructed knowledge. This contrasts the community of learners that comprise that of the elementary or high school or other classroom filled with non professionals—that is, not trained historians. Peter Seixas described the differences in education, training, authority, 99 Ibid.

The last argument Seixas made references the role of the teacher in the history classroom. The application of understanding in dialogue can add to and enrich an understanding of history education. Therefore, the inclusion of both historical thinking and dialogical understanding in the classroom can make history education a richer experience for students. What is of concern for dialogical understanding as with particular aspects of the disciplinary approach is understanding how the past effects us.

Similar to the disciplinary approach to history education, dialogical hermeneutics is concerned with the interpretation of primary documents. Secondary and tertiary texts are of less concern. Thus both approaches to history education recognize the importance of original texts. In other words, the meaning of a text is alienated the instant it is written down.

Only through him are the written marks changed back into meaning. An individual has a negative experience when something shocks us or leads us to realize that something is not as we thought it was. This can be applied to history education. The history classroom is a space for the dialogical interpretation of past Georgia Warnke.

While historical thinking is also concerned with the reconstruction of the past which is empirical in nature, both hermeneutics and historical thinking are concerned with understanding the human world. But, they do so differently. It is understanding the text as an answer to a question. Our experiences of the world effect the questions we bring to past texts.

For example, the meaning we derive from the text might be different than the author had originally intended. It is this meaning in text, the one associated with the subject we are trying to understand and the questions we ask, which is the concern of philosophical hermeneutics. To illustrate, if we read a text pertaining to the First World War, or the Crusades, or any other war in human history, we work to determine the question to which the text is an answer.

We may work out the question the author was trying to answer. However, we are not trying to understand the psychological state of the author or critique their understanding of the past events as we Ibid. Subsequently, we may interpret the text as an answer to a question we have brought to it based on our tradition. This may be a question the author had never intended to answer, but nonetheless the text does so anyways. We elucidate these answers through dialogue or the process of question and answer with the text.

Dialogue and the asking of questions brings the various meanings of a text to light. Whatever the subject we are trying to understand, we look to the text for some kind of truth related to the subject matter. We do this by asking a question—the reader reveals a text by asking questions. The questions we ask of the text come from a desire to better understand the subject of inquiry. Therefore, the subject of a text directs the process of question and answer which in turn reveals the meaning of the text.

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But, what does questioning look like? Gadamer argued that to reveal a text, readers should pay careful attention to the structure of the question. Particular to the experience of dialogue, the reader must desire some form of knowledge from the text. This knowledge is not a tool to be used for Ibid. Rather it is to come up against our prejudices and either affirm or discard them. An open question leads to more open questions.

But, in order to know, one comes to realize that one does not know something. When a person comes to this realization, then they can begin to ask authentic questions. Closed questions fail to open up a text to dialogical understanding. Closed questions can be answered simply and quickly.

They do not initiate or sustain a conversation. These types of questions provide facts and keep the control of the conversation with the questioner. They do not break open the text and initiate an open and prolonged dialogue about a particular subject. A journey of understanding can happen with teachers and students in the classroom. Open questions allow for a multitude of answers and are not handled easily. These questions require lengthy, well-developed answers, and often produce more questions. For example, if we look at documents from the First World War we may ask: How do humans respond to experiences of extreme suffering and violence?

Why do humans continue to fight when they have lost hope? How can we maintain a will to live while surrounded by death? Examples such as these are concerned with understanding the human condition through a series of questions dialogue with past texts. Open questions typically begin with What, Why, How and allow for an answer that Ibid. These questions could be asked of many different texts. Each different text has an answer to provide for each question. Each text would be a different dialogical experience. Another example could relate to casualties in the First World War.

A history teacher could be talking about casualties in the world wars. This would be a closed question, one with right vs. The question can take the dialogue in a number of possible directions. But, most importantly, the question cannot stultify the voice of the text; it must open the text up so we may discover multiple meanings and truth claims. This answer alters our understanding of the subject matter and results in further questions. This preserves questioning and dialogue.

In relation to dialogue between individuals in the classroom, if a student asks a question, the teacher Ibid. The teacher will work to understand the question and the reason for it and guide the student into deeper areas of understanding. Dialogue requires genuine questions. Rhetorical and pedagogical questions are distinguished from genuine questions.

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Rhetorical questions provide their own answer and end a conversation before it begins. A pedagogical question gives direction to a conversation but does not ensure the conversation is open and sustainable. This answer is an important truth about the subject of study. As we have seen, there is a gap in the Anglophone literature pertaining to history education that can be filled with a discussion of Gadamerian hermeneutics and dialogue.

We now turn our attention to how an interpretation of Truth and Method can enrich an understanding of history education. New Haven: Yale University Press, : Historical thinking has increasingly been researched and implemented in many classrooms across Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. This foreshadowed an understanding of history education based on the application of philosophical hermeneutics to interpretation in the history classroom.

We now turn our attention to the central question which this chapter answers: How might an interpretation of Truth and Method inform and enrich an understanding of history education? This chapter presents a hermeneutic dialogue with Truth and Method focused on understanding the interpretation of past texts in the history classroom. The hermeneutic interpretation of past texts occurs through dialogue. Dialogue transforms historical records to subjects that speak through asking questions to us about human experiences and meaning. Gadamer contended that the meaning of past texts—records that emerge from the past—lie dormant until brought to life in the present.

To understand the past, sources must be brought back into a dialogue between reader and text. He contends that: The historian has a different orientation to the texts of the past, in that he is trying to discover something about the past through them. He therefore uses other traditionary material to supplement and verify what the texts say. He considers it as more or less of a weakness when the philologist regards his text as a work of art.

A work of art is a whole, self-sufficient world. But the interest of the historian knows no such self-sufficiency. Rather, we engage in the art of strengthening or through a dialogue with the text and perhaps subsequent dialogue about the text with another person we look for how the text influences our understanding of the subject matter. In a hermeneutic reading of the text, an individual does not corroborate the claims a particular text has about the questions we ask it.

Corroboration is a necessary aspect of historical thinking and a crucial task of the historian concerned with the construction of historical narratives. Rather, we find strengths in what such a text has to say about the subject matter we are engaged in trying to understand. The reading of the text causes us to realize that our understanding of a subject may not be complete. It makes us aware that we in fact, might not know. A journal from the First World War has meaning for us in that it provides an understanding of human violence or human suffering. When a student or teachers interpret such records, our horizons expand or shift and our understanding of the world is altered.

The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Washington Post. March 16, Retrieved March 25, The Guardian. The Independent. March 26, Dalhousie University. Le Devenir Impensable. Archived from the original PDF on 28 December Retrieved 7 December Bernstein Geocities in Spanish. Archived from the original on 18 October Retrieved 21 May Dostal Niall Keane trans.

Gadamer scholars Gadamer—Derrida debate. Philosophy of language. Index of language articles. Ayer G. Category Task Force Discussion. Continental philosophy. Theodor W. Category Index. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Commons Wikiquote. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Hans-Georg Gadamer, c.