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Wertsch, James V. "Is It Possible to Teach Beliefs, as Well as Knowledge About History?" In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas and Sam Wineburg, 38-50. New York: New York University Press, 2000.


In the 1990s, Wertsch conducted research with ethnic Estonians and found that while they knew the dominant history of joining the Soviet Union in 1940, they believed in a version that stood in stark contrast to the official version. These findings led Wertsch to think about the split between mastery of (knowing by rote) and appropriation of (intimately believing)  history. Wertsch encourages a deeper consideration of this concept of appropriation in research on teaching and learning history and cites similar North American studies that gesture to a similar split between knowing official history while believing another, vernacular version. Wertsch’s unique perspective contributes to understanding historical instruction through the theoretical perspective of mediated action drawing from sociocultural analysis and complemented by the work on self-determination theory from psychology.

Samantha Cutrara