The efficacy of using historical fiction in Junior Secondary History classrooms.

Year: 2017

Author: Rogers, Natasha

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In 2013, a mandated History curriculum was implemented for Years 1-10 to replace, in part, the SOSE (Studies of Society and Environment) curriculum. The new ACARA (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority) curriculum provided content descriptors to establish what should be taught in each year level but not how it could be taught. In addition to this change, from 2015 Year 7 would become the first year of high school in Queensland. An investigation into the types of pedagogy that could engage students in History classrooms under the new curriculum and for a new year-level of students in high schools was timely.
The aim of this case study was to investigate student perceptions of the use of historical fiction in first-year secondary school History classes.
Two classes of Year 8 students participated in this practice intervention: the researcher's own and the class of another teacher who had volunteered. A case study approach was taken as it "relies on many of the same techniques as history but it adds two sources of evidence not usually included in the historian's repertoire: direct observation of the events being studied and interviews of the persons involved in events" (Yin, 2009, p. 11). A total of 27 students, 15 boys and 12 girls of varied literacy levels were participants. Mixed methods were employed. Data included a written pre-unit survey to establish students' pre-conceptions about studying History; artefacts (including audio recordings and activities) from the intervention lessons; and focus group interviews to establish the efficacy and enjoyment of the activity as an introduction to learning History in the high school classroom.
Findings indicated that whilst few students had experience reading historical fiction prior to the intervention, they had accessed historical content through a range of other entertainment media forms. In the pre-unit surveys, students expressed that the aspects of History they enjoyed learning were related to content and the things they disliked were predominantly pedagogical issues. After the intervention, students generally expressed an enjoyment of the historical fiction novel and thought using historical fiction was an effective way to introduce History to the Year 7s coming into the high school setting. They recommended that the novel be accessible in a range of formats to suit their varied learning style preferences. Participants in this study were given the opportunity to have a voice, giving recommendations about how to improve the intervention and the teaching of History into the future.