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Encountering history : student agency in history and identity student perspectives from the International School Bremen

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posted on 15.04.2015, 14:32 by Alexis L. Rossi
History education has been seen a tool to transmit a socially accepted historical narrative and related characteristics of national identity across generations, often with the goal to cohesively prepare and integrate citizens into society. By utilizing a relatively privileged sample that simultaneously exists both within and outside of national and international contexts, this research contributes to the existing academic literature by providing qualitative evidence that promotes the questioning of the notion of the simple transmission of values through history education. With evidence drawn from student interviews from an international school in northern Germany as part of a micro-case study design, this thesis shows that students retain and exercise considerable agency in encounters with history and the subsequent processes of interpreting and making sense of those encounters. Students exercise significant agency through the utilization of temporal elements as tools through which they construct and deploy revised historical accounts that are relevant to their personal identities and worldviews. Additionally, social factors significantly influence the form, content and understanding of encounters with history. As such, history education is influenced by salient elements of both students’ achieved and ascribed identities in a complex and dynamic manner where students actively formulate their identities and understandings of history. Through characteristics specific to the international school, such as dedicated space for discussion and the perception of an inclusive and supportive community, students further the development and exploration of achieved identity and agency with the result of a stronger sense of self and an expanded worldview. Although the research upholds some elements of the existing debate, this research highlights that student encounters with history are more wide-ranging and complex than previously acknowledged. The level of agency that students retain in fashioning their identity in relation to and through encounters with history is significantly more considerable than previously thought.



Daddow, Oliver; Brace, Laura

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Department of Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

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