Date of Award

2003

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Religious Education, PhD

First Advisor

John V.G. Matthews

Second Advisor

Larry D. Burton

Third Advisor

Gary Land

Abstract

Problem. Students at the upper secondary-school level sometimes experience difficulties understanding basic historical concepts as well as appreciating the relevance of history as a subject in the school's curriculum. While these students are capable of formulating perspectives of their own, teachers often find it necessary to guide students' thinking toward an accepted paradigm (scholarly concept) of history. The problem is that there are mismatched paradigms that teachers need to bring together in order to establish a foundation for a scholarly approach to history.

This study seeks to identify different conceptual frameworks that exist in students' thinking about history. It also probes into teachers' perceptions of history and their opinions about students' understanding of historical concepts.

Method. This study employed a mixed-method research design aimed at triangulating quantitative and qualitative data obtained from questionnaires and focus group interviews. Participants were randomly drawn from selected secondary schools in Tobago and the east/west corridor of Trinidad. Four hundred and fifteen history students and 17 history teachers of the Fifth and Sixth Form classes participated in the study.

Findings. Analysis of the findings revealed the following: (1) Students generally rejected the notion that history is boring and irrelevant to everyday life. However, those in the Fifth Form were more likely than those in the Lower and Upper Sixth Forms to view history as boring. (2) Although students were able to identify appropriate responses on the surveys regarding the question of multiple causation, they were unable to adequately defend their position in a focus group setting. (3) There were no significant differences between teachers' and students' perceptions of the scope of the history syllabus, students' ability to understand texts used in history classes, and the role of the teacher in the teaching and learning process.

Conclusions. This study has highlighted the ability reflective thinking, and to formulate perceptions of their own. While these conceptual paradigms may require some adjustment, it is important for teachers to recognize the potency of students' perceptions as critical factors in influencing how and what they learn about history.

Subject Area

History--Study and teaching (Secondary)--Trinidad and Tobago

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