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Open Access Student responses to differing accounts of a controversial historical issue: 15-year-old Greek students consider the removal of children in the Greek Civil War

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In recent decades, controversial issues have come to the forefront of history teaching. So far, they have been utilized in three ways: (1) to manage tensions in divided societies; (2) to instil humanitarian values into students; and (3) to enhance the teaching of second-order historical concepts. This study is based on the findings of other relevant research, and underpins the use of controversial accounts in order to foster procedural concepts of history. It was conducted in three middle schools of the Xanthi Prefecture, northern Greece, in 2017 and 2018. The subjects were 94 15-year-old students, and the design was experimental. After being taught two versions of the Greek Civil War, a traditional and an experimental one, students expressed their opinions about three pairs of different historical accounts of a controversial issue: the removal of children during the war. A pilot study consisted of role-playing activities involving historical competences. After qualitative and quantitative analysis, a variety of ideas emerged about the differences in the accounts, the reasons for their differentiation, and the epistemological status of history. The findings show that: (1) students' comprehension depended on the level of difficulty of the accounts; and (2) the experimental groups modified their ideas about the different accounts and history to some degree. In conclusion, a structured, disciplinary approach to controversial historical issues, focused on role-playing activities, could contribute to a refinement of students' epistemological notions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The History Education Research Journal (HERJ) is an international, open-access, peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the global significance and impact of history education. It covers all aspects of history education theory, scholarship, and pure and applied research. Articles illuminate contemporary issues, concerns, policies and practice, drawing upon the eclectic research methodologies of history education. The journal is published in partnership with the Historical Association.

    HERJ is a relaunch of the International Journal of Historical Learning Teaching and Research. All past issues up to and including vol. 15, no. 1 were published under this title. HERJ vol. 15, no. 2 is the first to be published by UCL IOE Press.
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