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History in the Turkish elementary school : perceptions and pedagogy

By Dursun Dilek


This study investigates teachers' and pupils' roles in the teaching and learning of\ud elementary history in relation to the social studies curriculum in Turkish schools. The\ud methodological design of the study embraces both quantitative and qualitative research\ud methods. Questionnaires were completed by 219 elementary teachers in Istanbul and\ud Samsun in Turkey. Seven class teachers and three head teachers took part in the interview\ud process based in the study's three case schools in the Bafra district of Samsun.\ud Observations took place in three fourth and three fifth grade elementary classrooms of the\ud same schools and lasted three weeks.\ud The study argues that children must be given a sense of the discipline of history by\ud introducing historical enquiry as the basis of the school history teaching in order that pupils\ud will develop the skills which make significant contributions to their cognitive development\ud (see Chapter three).\ud From the analysis of the data the study found that:\ud - There were gaps between teachers' espoused child-centred curriculum theories and their\ud classroom practices. Teachers preferred whole class teaching techniques (i. e. lecturing and\ud questioning) as the means of delivering the curriculum. The curriculum itself was too\ud broad and too knowledge-based.\ud - History was seen as a vehicle in citizenship education based on the political events of\ud national history. The subject's classroom activities were dominated by textbooks and the\ud practice of 'pupil's recitation' which was limited to the memorisation of factual\ud information.\ud - Teachers mostly used a style of questioning which checked pupils' historical knowledge\ud rather than their historical understanding.\ud - From the analysis of interview data and Turkish curriculum documents, the study argued\ud that the teachers could be classified as 'national utopians' and 'utilitarian/instrumentalists'\ud in their perceptions of elementary education. This affected their teaching styles.\ud - The analysis of video-tape data showed that teachers used three main teaching styles. On\ud the basis of a further classification teachers were grouped as 'lecturers', 'controllers of\ud proxy teaching' and 'questioners'. The relationship between teaching styles and teachers'\ud perceptions of elementary education is discussed in chapters five and six.\ud - The teachers thought that they were experts in the teaching of literacy and numeracy and\ud argued that subject specialism was only to be considered in other areas of the curriculum.\ud - This study also confirmed that the social studies textbooks used in the classrooms\ud involved in the study were not appropriate to pupils' understanding and reading levels (see\ud chapters five and six). During the observations, it was recorded that below average pupils\ud used their textbooks less than the above average and average pupils. The textbooks were\ud less likely to promote the task related behaviour category 'working' than other materials.\ud The study has implications for the process of educational change beyond the teaching of\ud history. It focuses on issues of curriculum and practice in Turkish elementary schools by\ud analysing the factors affecting teachers' perceptions of curriculum policy and their own\ud practices. It investigates each of these areas and presents the implications for policy,\ud theory, practice and research in Chapter seven by concluding that the starting point for a\ud rational educational policy should be partnership with teachers. Therefore, the study argues\ud that teachers must be included in research projects and that such projects need to use a\ud variety of techniques based on classroom practice, (e. g. interview analysis, observation\ud techniques, questionnaires, document analysis, case studies and action research) explored\ud and evaluated throughout this study

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