Exploring Pre-service teachers' historical thinking through the Cooperative Biography: A Design-based Research Study

Open Access
Fuentes, David Andres
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 22, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Stephanie Cayot Serriere, Dissertation Advisor
  • Stephanie Cayot Serriere, Committee Chair
  • Scott Alan Metzger, Committee Member
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Member
  • Historical thinking
  • Historical understanding
  • pre-service teachers' perceptions of history
  • design-based research
  • history education
Through Design-Based Research (Cobb, et al., 2003), this study explores the intended outcomes and processes of the Cooperative Biography project. This research provides an iterative analysis (Cobb, et al., 2003) of how pre-service teachers experienced history while engaged in a Cooperative Biography, in a teacher-education setting. This includes analysis of observations, interviews, and survey data to offer deductive and inductive themes present in the learning ecology (Biesta & Burboles, 2003). Exploring and analyzing key concepts related to historical thinking, the study offers a re-conceptualization of the project goals and contributes to the fields of Social Studies, history education, and elementary teacher education, by offering examples of how participants used artifacts and sources to interpret and re-tell history. The study addresses pre-service teachers’ epistemic beliefs about history, which can be seen as a major force driving the ways they plan to teach history in the future (Evans, 1994; Jaeger & Davis, 1996). Research on teaching and learning history has pointed to teachers’ historical understanding, historical consciousness and knowledge as the basis for the development of historical thinking among their students (Jaeger & Davis, 1998). Research on learning history has been reported over the past few decades, particularly, historical understanding and historical consciousness have been examined through several studies (Downey & Levstik, 1991; Armento, 1991; Carretero & Voss, 1997). However, much less research exists that posits the relationship between epistemic stance and historical thinking at the level of the individual as this study does. Research in historiography, historical understanding, and consciousness has opened the door to conduct epistemological investigations that seek to unfold the relationship between individual beliefs and epistemic stances. The current study will offer insights into pre-service teachers’ beliefs about history, and will paint a picture of participants’ experiences within the Cooperative Biography. The study will begin to fill a void in the literature surrounding the multiplicity of epistemological beliefs that form the basis of pre-service teachers’ beliefs about history. Whereas, Evans (1989) painted pictures of teacher typologies, a move to understand the intersections of various typologies, where one begins to meet the next, or where, when, and why one triumphs over another, may mark a move toward further understanding the complexity of pre-service teachers’ beliefs about history. Employing current theoretical frames, such as Design-Based Research (DBR), in the process of investigating pre-service teachers’ historical thinking and beliefs about history will fill a gap in the literature that exists today. Moreover, this study provides themes and representations—explanations that go beyond ‘fitting’ a mold, making room for ways in which the data are anomalous, which may move the field towards a more nuanced understanding of the ways pre-service teachers’ think historically.