Hosted by the University of Nottingham, the 2016-17 PGR history teacher training series welcomed seventeen postgraduate and early career historians from across the East Midlands, all new to teaching history, for three interactive workshops and a mentoring programme.
The training series was designed with the following aims in mind:
- Provision of more focused, subject-specific training for PGR and early career historians
- Increased opportunities for knowledge exchange, practice-sharing and observation across institutions
- Increased engagement with/application of pedagogical theory and approaches to history teaching
- Enhanced opportunities for mentoring of PGR and early career historians by experienced teachers and academics
- Development of reflective learners/teachers and shared teaching values across EMC institutions through expert mentoring, engagement with pedagogical theory and approaches, and practical assignments
Workshop 1, September 2016
The opening flagship workshop was based around the idea of “historical thinking”, and how history teachers might develop the concepts, ideas and qualities of mind essential to such thinking in their students. Dr Arthur Chapman from the UCL Institute of Education led a plenary discussion of the core concepts of “historical thinking”, asking participants to consider the importance of certain discipline-specific qualities and methods in the teaching and development of historians, as well as the barriers to students’ understanding. Participants discussed the strategies or activities we might make use of (in and outside of the classroom) to help them overcome these barriers and bring them closer to where we want them to be.
The afternoon’s practical sessions asked participants to consider what they were most afraid of before teaching history for the first time. Participants took part in parallel discussions of planning the first class, teaching outside one’s specialism and facing a silent or unresponsive class, chaired by Professor Alan Booth of Loughborough University and Dr Nick Thomas and Dr Joe Merton from the University of Nottingham.
Workshop 2, January 2017
The second workshop focused specifically on the issue of progression; how we might measure our students’ understanding of history and how we might move them onwards in their thinking. The plenary session, led by Dr Gary Mills of the University of Nottingham, asked participants to consider the question, ‘What does it mean to get better at history?’ Participants discussed core readings by Peter Lee, Denis Shemilt and Elisabeth Pickles before modelling specific progression routes for students in a number of different procedural concepts specific to history.
Workshop 3, June 2017
The final workshop, led by Dr Arthur Chapman and Dr Joe Merton, asked students to reflect on their experiences of teaching history for the first time. Discussing specific procedural concepts such as change and continuity, evidence, historical interpretations and significance, participants explained how they had engaged with those concepts over the year and integrated them within their teaching. They also discussed students’ engagement with these core concepts, and the strategies they had used as teachers to help students progress in their understanding of them.
A year-long mentoring programme ran alongside the three workshops. Participants were paired with experienced mentors from various East Midlands institutions – each different to their own – for one-on-one discussions and mentoring meetings across the year, and asked to write reflections on their early experiences of teaching history at university. It was hoped that the mentoring would enable participants to reflect independently on their practice, experience different perspectives of teaching history, and discuss their experiences of teaching in a supportive and inclusive environment.
Reflections from PGRs