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Navigating historical thinking in a vocational setting: teachers interpreting a history curriculum for students in vocational secondary education
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. (History and Education)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5222-6229
2015 (English)In: Journal of Curriculum Studies, ISSN 0022-0272, E-ISSN 1366-5839, Vol. 47, no 1, 77-93 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In Sweden, history has recently become a compulsory subject in upper secondary vocational education and training (VET). The aim of this interview study with teachers was to problematize the transition between the ideals of history education in the curriculum and the everyday practices of history teaching. It investigated how the teachers assess the objectives of the history curriculum and how they relate the curriculum to their knowledge and conceptions of their students. This study complicates the phenomenon of academic subjects in vocational education and provides an empirical example to centre a discussion of the challenges associated with a history curriculum that seeks to acknowledge different orientations of history teaching. The teachers articulated potential problems that stem from the students’ capabilities and motivation. The objectives of the disciplinary and critical orientation assume factual knowledge, which, according to the teachers, the students do not have. In the interviews, the teachers showed that they seek to transform the curriculum to allow them to teach more substantive knowledge. Continuing citizenship education for students in upper secondary VET through compulsory academic subjects, such as history, might contribute less than expected to the individual’s process of becoming a citizen.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015. Vol. 47, no 1, 77-93 p.
Keyword [en]
history education; vocational education; curriculum reform; post-compulsory education
National Category
History Didactics Educational Sciences
Research subject
history of education
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96311DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2014.984766ISI: 000346845700004OAI: diva2:764055
Available from: 2014-11-18 Created: 2014-11-18 Last updated: 2015-02-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Historia för yrkesprogrammen: Innehåll och betydelse i policy och praktik
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Historia för yrkesprogrammen: Innehåll och betydelse i policy och praktik
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
History for Vocational Education and Training : Content and Meaning in Policy and Practice
Abstract [en]

This thesis offers critical perspectives on a history syllabus for vocational education and training (VET) tracks in Swedish upper secondary schools and adds to our knowledge and understanding of the educative function of history education for the individual and for society. The overall aim of this thesis is to critically investigate discourses that are voiced in different fields about the construction and reproduction of the history curriculum in VET tracks. A general question addressed is how vertical (critical and theoretical) and horizontal knowledge is articulated by the discourses in terms of the meaning of history in a VET context. The following four research questions were the focus of the four different studies in this thesis: How were non-vocational subjects discussed on a policy level during the post-war period, and what meanings were ascribed to history education? What aspects of history as a field of knowledge are recontextualised into a pedagogic discourse for the VET curriculum? How do teachers perceive the history syllabus? What do the students express concerning the history syllabus and history education? The results of these studies are reported in separate papers, and the aggregated results are analysed in this thesis. The data consisted of government bills and committee reports, material from the National Agency of Education archives, and interview data gathered through interviews with 5 teachers and 46 students. The major theoretical inspiration comes from Basil Bernstein whose theories of classification and framing, pedagogic discourse, pedagogic code, and vertical and horizontal discourses are used in the analysis. With the aid of these concepts, the content and meaning of history education for VET are connected to macro levels of education, and the way in which education reproduces social order when certain forms of knowledge are distributed to different groups in society is discussed. Three major conclusions are drawn. First, history as a pedagogic discourse comes forward as versatile and contradictory when the results from the studies are aggregated. There is, however, a shared understanding that the meaning of history in VET is to educate the students to become democratic and active citizens. Secondly, the investigated discourses ascribe history education with the potential to distribute critical and powerful knowledge. The students see a value for history education in their future as citizens and for giving them access the public conversation of society. A final conclusion is that the pedagogic code, embedded in the history curriculum, can be interpreted in two different ways. The emphasis on competencies and the focus on the last two hundred years can be interpreted as (A) an expression of a wish for immediate utility and thus an instrumental view of education or (B) the recontextualisation of scientific theories, concepts, and practices into a pedagogic discourse as a means to give students access to disciplinary (powerful) knowledge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2015. 57 p.
Umeå studies in history and education, 10
History education, history of education, curriculum studies, curriculum reform, vocational education and training, upper secondary education, post-compulsory education, citizenship education, historiedidaktik, historia, läroplan, gymnasiereform, yrkesutbildning, sekundärutbildning, demokrati, medborgarfostran, gymnasieutbildning
National Category
History Educational Sciences
Research subject
history of education
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-99842 (URN)978-91-7601-228-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-03-13, Hörsal E. Humanisthuset, Umeå, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-02-20 Created: 2015-02-13 Last updated: 2015-04-30Bibliographically approved

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Ledman, Kristina
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