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An empirical framework for understanding how teachers conceptualize and cultivate historical empathy in students

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This study reports the results of a case study of four teachers' beliefs about the nature of historical empathy and their means of cultivating such empathy in secondary school classrooms. The results of multiple interviews and lesson observations of history teachers in England suggest that teachers conceptualize empathy in bounded but not parsimonious ways, shaped by the realities of trying to teach it to students; that they select from broad repertoires of strategies, including major activities as well as small-scale discourse strategies, heretofore largely unexamined; and that they recognize ways in which their empathetic goals exist in tension with other teaching aims, creating dilemmas they must manage rather than definitively resolve. Significant discrepancies between how these teachers actually think and practice and how empathy teaching is discussed in the educational literature suggest that research stands to benefit by attending more closely to teachers' ideas.

Keywords: concept teaching; historical empathy; history instruction; teacher education; teaching experience; theory-practice relationship; world views

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Primary Source, Watertown, MA, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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