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Seixas, Peter. “Historical Understanding among Adolescents in a Multicultural Setting.” Curriculum Inquiry 23(3) (1993): 301-27.


The author of this study examines six students' construction of historical knowledge as shaped by school and family. The author explores students' perceptions of the disjunctions and interactions between the two sources of historical understandings. Students representing a range of social studies achievement and ethnic backgrounds were selected from grade 11 classes in a large, urban, multicultural school. Classroom participant-observations and two in-depth interviews with each student provide the data. The students' patterns of historical understanding are analyzed with particular attention to the following elements: historical significance, historical evidence and authority, and historical agency, empathy, and moral judgment. The author suggests that family experiences and other sources of information outside school strongly influence the way in which students understand history. He explores some of the problems generated when the complexities of historical meaning making remain unrecognized in school social studies. Finally, the author suggests advantages, particularly in the multicultural classroom, of shaping curricular content and classroom activities to enable students to examine and build upon their prior historical knowledge.  

Curriculum Inquiry