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Published: 2022-10-18 Updated: 2022-10-27, 12:10

History teaching in focus at international symposium

NEWS Researchers from four continents met in Umeå at a symposium on history teaching arranged by researchers at Umeå University and McGill University in Canada. The symposium is funded by the Swedish Research Council and Umeå School of Education.

Text: Per Melander

It's a rather narrow field, and that's why it was so incredibly gratifying that the interest in the symposium was so great, and that we got all the most famous researchers in the field here.

Henrik Åström Elmersjö, associate professor in history, says that the symposium History teachers' epistemic considerations: A symposium on how teachers make sense of history, is connected to the international project Teaching Rival Histories, funded by the Swedish Research Council, which is run by himself and Paul Zanazanian, McGill University in Canada.

“The project examines the epistemological starting points in history teachers' teaching in Sweden and Quebec. As part of the project's goals, there has always been a desire to put the project in a larger international context and connect it with the overall research situation, says Henrik Åström Elmersjö and continues:

“This is also the origin to the symposium that was now held on 13 to 14 October 2022. The aim of the symposium itself is also that the papers that were presented should form the basis of an anthology about the epistemological considerations and positions of history teachers in different parts of the world”.

Narrow research field

He further says that they expect the conference to contribute to discussions and new opportunities to move forward within research on what epistemological starting points in history education do to teachers' overall view of the subject, but also, ultimately, to students' learning.

“With researchers from four different continents participating in the conference, it is also possible to shed light on these questions from many different perspectives. It's a rather narrow field, and that's why it was so incredibly gratifying that the interest in the symposium was so great, and that we got all the most famous researchers in the field here. I am confident that it will result in a very focused and well-written anthology”.

Henrik Åström Elmersjö continues to say that the field history with a focus on educational science at Umeå University is doing very well both nationally and internationally.

“We have become a hub and to some extent a gathering point for this type of international exchange. Visiting professors, international symposiums and anthologies in the last five to ten years attest to the strong position that the research environment in Umeå has gained. This symposium is also connected to research conducted at the Umeå research environment for the didactics of socially oriented subjects (UmSOD)”.

What does it mean to meet again post-pandemic?

“There is a huge difference in meeting in real life compared to having Zoom meetings. Above all, I see it as an important task for me as an organizer to create the "in betweens" that cannot be created online”.

“I am thinking of slightly extra-long coffee breaks, lunches, and conference dinners, where you during very intense days of discussions about research, also get the opportunity to not only get to know the research, but also the researcher. I believe that it is these gaps that provide the possibilities for future research projects and new ideas”.

When research is discussed more anonymously, there is always a risk that you never really meet, nor do you see where you can collaborate, says Henrik Åström Elmersjö.

“Having said that, the pandemic has also taught us that we don't always have to travel halfway around the world to benefit from each other's expertise.

For this symposium they had three very famous keynotes in Liliana Maggioni, Martin Nitsche and Robert Parkes.  

“I think it was a prerequisite for good discussions that two of them were there and not only gave their keynotes but were also able to participate in all discussions both at the sessions and during dinner, coffee breaks and lunches.

“But Robert Parkes, who is based in Australia, unfortunately did not have the opportunity to come, but he still gave a much appreciated keynote lecture via link from Australia. Also read