1381 HATF: it’s good to talk!

Thanks to David Ingledew (@ingledew_j) for this blogpost reflecting on the powerful way that a HATF enables history teachers and teacher educators to learn from academic historians.

On my way home from the Historical Association’s People of 1381 Teacher Fellowship programme residential at Mansfield College, Oxford, I was reminded of the mid-1990s advert for BT fronted by Oscar nominated actor Bob Hoskins. In a series of adverts Bob extolled the virtues of talking to each other on the phone, suggesting that the benefit and value of this could easily be taken for granted. I’m not convinced that BT’s intentions were entirely altruistic, at the time the privatised company, which had a near monopoly of telecommunications in Britain, was facing increased competition, particularly from the development of mobile phones. However, there was something about Bob’s core message in the advert – ‘it’s good to talk’ – that chimed with my key takeaway from the residential. Talk is so everyday and commonplace that it can easily be taken for granted and its value overlooked. Talk or dialogue is more than telling others what we know, sharing our ideas, experiences and opinions. Talk is the means by which we make sense of things, construct meaning, it is a place where our thinking is challenged so that we can gain new understandings. Thinking about that Bob Hoskins advert, I realised how much we as a group of academic historians, history teachers and history teacher educators brought together for the People of 1381 fellowship had talked, listened, discussed and debated during the residential. This was not a one-way monologue of expert academic historians telling the rest of us about their latest research on 1381 which we were then expected to dutifully recreate in teaching and learning resources. It was (and still is) an ongoing dialogue in which we were all involved, all contributed to, all listened and ultimately all benefited from at various stages over the three days, each having something different to offer. To summarise, the following highlights four key ways in which this dialogue was powerful: 

  1. Academic discourse: Over the three days we witnessed historians discussing, challenging and arguing with each other, to explain how different evidence had changed their thinking and position, how the wider discourse on 1381 had evolved and changed over the past 30 years. And we were invited to ask questions and take part in the debate. This opportunity to observe academic historians discuss the history of 1381 in front of our very eyes (and ears) was incredibly valuable, bringing to life how history is constructed, and how different historical interpretations are made. 
  2. Different perspectives: The reciprocal interaction between academic historians, history teachers and history teacher educators during the residential created opportunities for powerful dialogue between our different professional backgrounds and perspectives. We talked during and in-between sessions, at mealtimes and in the evenings. This highlights the rich opportunities that a residential course such as this offers (and what a privilege to be part of it). Central to this dialogue was a mutual respect, a sense that we all had something to contribute, we all had something to learn from the project and from collaborating with each other. 
  3. Pedagogical discussion: The residential also provided opportunities for the participating history teachers and history teacher educators to start to share, discuss and construct how we can use what we have learnt from the project to help our pupils learn about the people of 1381. Simultaneously juggling with how we can do justice to the history while at the same time making it accessible, engaging, and purposeful for learners. Our pedagogical discussion continues via WhatsApp, Moodle, Twitter, Padlet and blogs such as this and hopefully the resources that we produce at the end of the project will highlight the power of our dialogue. 
  4. Professional empowerment: A final, and perhaps less obvious, aspect of the residential and the People of 1381 fellowship, is the way in which it gives confidence to us as participants to engage in the history, make sense of it and use it to “actively mediate their students’ learning rather than merely complying with the demand for change” (Burn, 2021:148). Central to this empowerment is the ongoing dialogue between academic historians, history teachers and history teacher educators that the Fellowship offers. 

Bob said, ‘It’s good to talk’, but it is much more than this, it is invaluable for history, history learning and teaching and our own professional identities as historians, history teachers and history teacher educators. Dialogue is powerful. Let’s keep talking. 

Applications for the next HA Teacher Fellowship are open until 1st March and you can find more details here. Many historians are keen to share their work with schools – why not make contact with your local university history department to explore opportunities to collaborate? There are lots of opportunities to hear historians talk about their work, for example via @historybookgrp @BeBoldHistory and, of course, the local and virtual HA branches. To find out more about bringing a historian ‘doing’ history in the classroom then this article by Hibbert and Patel in TH177 is a good place to start.  

Reference

Burn, K., (2021) ‘The power of knowledge: The impact on history teachers of sustained subject-rich professional development.’ Knowing History in Schools, p.148.

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