Michael Fordham
Situating history teachers in a disciplinary community: a phenomenological study.

Author: Michael Fordham, University of Cambridge.

Title: “Situating history teachers in a disciplinary community: a phenomenological study”


Academic disciplines are social and temporal phenomena, and this poses theoretical problems for researchers who aim to describe the relationship between school teachers and the academic discipline they teach. This is, at heart, a matter of agency and structure, for teachers exercise agency in relation to their subject, yet are limited by the social and epistemological structures of an academic discipline. Several models of teacher subject knowledge have been proposed, most influentially Lee Shulman’s model of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). This model has, however, attracted criticism for failing to account for the social and temporal character of disciplinary knowledge. In particular, PCK does not allow for an explanation of how a teacher participates as an agent within or in relation to the disciplinary community. This paper reports the findings of a research project that examined this relationship between history teachers and the academic discipline of history. The research was directed by two research questions that sought to elicit how history teachers characterise the disciplinary nature of their practice, and what understandings about disciplinary history emerge when teachers design lessons. Calling upon a phenomenological methodology, four expert history teachers were identified as research participants. Each history teacher was interviewed twice about a lesson or sequence of lessons they planned to teach, and the findings analysed by the identification of themes. The findings from this research helped in the formulation of a conceptual model by which the relationship between history teachers and the academic discipline of history might be better understood. In particular, the two concepts of ‘working towards the discipline’ and ‘proxy authority’ are advanced as potentially useful ideas in future studies of teacher knowledge.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación