ISSN 2050-5337 - ISSUE 5

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Friday, 31 August 2012 12:57

Fiction and Imagination in History Education

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Creativity in history classes

The capacity to imagine is a key aspect of creativity and, in this paper, it is argued that it is this capacity which needs to be harnessed in history education for young people. Although the creation of fiction and the use of imagination has tended to be regarded as a literary method, in this paper it is argued that it has an important role to play in helping young people discover history – something which might normally be seen as a purely scientific process. An interdisciplinary approach is needed. Researchers who study pedagogy confirm that in contemporary education, how teachers are interested in their subject and how they use their imagination is becoming increasingly important (Zeldin 1995). The problem is not particularly ontological (what to present in a history class) – instead, it is epistemological (how to present it). The choice of material stems partly from the topic but even more from the approach to the topic. It also depends on the target audience (e.g. children of various ages and carrying out various roles), the values of the society and ideological choices (what we are trying to tell the students about a topic).

In the case of children and teenagers, impressions and imagination play an immensely important part in the study process and the importance of these should not be underestimated. On the contrary – we should learn the use of imagination from our students, at least in humanities and social science subjects, including history. The teacher needs twice the amount of imagination and a creative approach – in presenting the subject, as well as when interacting with the students. If we ignore this need, we might find ourselves listening to students' complaints over a subject that they find boring, without us realizing that we have stifled their curiosity.

To identify – but to whom?


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Milvi Martina Piir

Milvi Martina Piir is an Estonian writer and historian. She has an MA degree in history from the University of Tartu and she is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Sciences at Tallinn University. She is an author of innovative history textbooks, workbooks and teachers' books for schools of general education and works as the senior specialist in history at the National Examinations and Qualifications Centre. She also works as a lecturer in the history of pedagogy at the University of Tallinn and is a member of the Baltic Association of Historians of Pedagogy. For her PhD dissertation, she studies the impact of the nationalist-traditionalist history teaching in the period of Estonia's regaining of independence on the practical understanding of history among the younger generation.

As a writer, Milvi Martina Piir is an author of several novels and the winner of the national novel competition in 2008.

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