How do students, teachers and education professionals experience visual sources in the teaching and learning of History?

Haward, Tom (2018) How do students, teachers and education professionals experience visual sources in the teaching and learning of History? Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (3MB)


The idea that the emerging global society is also the age of the “pictorial turn” (Jenks, 1998; Mitchell, 2005; Mirzoeff, 2015) is one in which the use of visual historical sources in the teaching and learning of History in English secondary schools is situated. Yet there has been little research conducted into the ways such sources are experienced by teachers and students in the classroom, and the ways these are mediated by political, cultural and social forces. Despite this dearth of research, the need for further investigation is highlighted by a number of theorists who believe how working with visual images has the potential to develop visual ways of thinking both historically and about the world that are complicated (Schama, 2015), requiring what some see as quite specific “thinking dispositions” (Perkins, 1994).
This investigation explores the ways in which visual historical sources are experienced by teachers, students and education professionals. Three lessons in an English comprehensive school using visual sources were observed, pre and post-lesson interviews were conducted with teachers, as well as three student focus groups to add a student description of their experience with visual sources. A perspective external to schools is added through interviews with three professional educators working with visual sources with students in gallery and museum spaces as opposed to school spaces. This study identifies, analyses and compares different experiences of visual historical sources, and considers the implications these have for teacher pedagogy. As such, the key research question in this investigation is “How do students, teachers and education professionals experience visual sources in the teaching and learning of history?”
This qualitative study draws upon a form of constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2008, 2011, 2014) that moves from the positivist idea of data being ‘discovered’ to one which acknowledges that as researchers we are part of the world we study, and where data collection is seen as not being a neutral process. As such, it seeks to understand the constructs teachers, students, and education professionals use to understand their experiences with visual sources (Gibson & Hartman, 2014). In analysing the data through thematic analysis, a variety of theoretical positions are used to help conceptualise the perceptions described and observed in the research. From notions of “thinking conjuncturally,” (Massey, 2005) to the hybridity of visual sources (Hall, 1990) and of the idea visual sources as “regimes of truth,” (Foucault, 1972), this study draws on theoretical positions from a variety of disciplines to understand the ways experiences with visual historical sources operate.
The findings illustrate how descriptions that emerge around the use of visual sources coalesce around seven main themes; access and engagement, acts of seeing, how images work, truth-claims, historical interpretation, intertextuality and pedagogical praxis. Within these, a number of axes can be used to describe positions that may at times seem paradoxical, such as descriptions of visual sources as being both transparent and opaque. In considering the implications of the use of visual historical sources for teacher pedagogy, it is claimed that they have the capacity to be rich interpretive tools for the construction of History, and can be seen as distinct spatial puzzles and representations that need to be understood as working in the specific context of their medium.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D016 Methodology- General works > D016.2 Study and teaching
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary education. High schools
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 01 May 2018 12:23
Last Modified: 01 May 2018 12:23

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update