Beliefs von Geschichtslehrpersonen (Beliefs of history teachers)

Promovierender: Martin Nitsche,
Gutachtende: Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Grunder, Prof. Dr. Béatrice Ziegler
Laufzeit: HS 2014-FS 2017

Literature overview:
Ever since the PISA-studies were conducted in the early 2000s, in German speaking countries, the outcomes of different educational systems have been discussed. In mathematics education research, the "concept of professional competence" of teachers was defined and its role for outcomes of students studied. It is defined as "interplay of knowledge, skills, attitudes" by Kunter et al. (2013). The research team also suggests that subjective aspects, e.g. the teachers’ epistemological beliefs and beliefs of teaching and learning, may affect students learning. Thereby they are stressing older positions of international pedagogical psychology (e.g. Hofer, Pintrich 1997; Hofer 2001) and results (e.g. Staub, Stern 2002; Muis, Foy 2010). In quantitative research both constructs are distinguished in various positions between "naïve" and "reflective". For example Kuhn et al. (2000) use three positions to describe epistemological understanding ("absolutists", "mulitiplists", "evaluativists"). The beliefs of teaching and learning are differed often between "transmission" as instructional view and "constructivism" as student orientation (Staub, Stern 2002; Kunter et al. 2013).

In history education we find little research about these constructs. Very early, Sam Wineburg (1991) underlined the significance of beliefs for historical thinking. Some qualitative work followed (e.g. Leinhardt 1994). Maggioni et al. (2009) developed first a systematic concept of epistemological beliefs in history and a quantitative approach to measure the construct. They interpret the views, following e.g. Kuhn et al. (2000), as "copier stance", "borrower stance" and "criterialist stance". But factor analysis show just two clear factors. They found that about half of the experienced teachers they asked hold a "criterialist stance". In German speaking Switzerland Messner & Buff (2007) conducted a study about beliefs of teaching and learning. They pointed out that different views could be related with each other. But we don’t know how epistemological beliefs and beliefs of teaching and learning are connected. Also the influences of teacher beliefs in history education remain little explored. Only Evans researched the "historical concepts" of US history teachers, made classroom observation, and interviews with students. He suggests that students think in the same way about historical concepts as teachers if ever these have a clear position (Evans 1990). In Germany an intervention-study by Fenn (2013) with history teacher students suggests that the subjective theories of teaching and learning influence the teaching practice in laboratory courses. This short overview shows that in history education we know little about teacher beliefs and in what ways the constructs are visible in history lessons.

Research questions:
First I ask how the constructs "epistemological beliefs" and "beliefs of teaching and learning" of history teachers could be measured by quantitative instruments, which beliefs the respondents hold and how both constructs are connected. Second, I analyze how these are visual in history classes. Finally I take a look on how the teachers use the beliefs when reflecting their history lessons.

Based on former research (e.g. Maggioni et al. 2009; Messner, Buff 2007) two questionnaires have been developed and tested two times in a group of Swiss German and German history teacher students (all together N≥ 300). Exploratory factor analyses were performed. After items which do not fit were eliminated, three factors for both constructs have been extracted. They can be interpreted as the epistemological positions "positivism", "skepticism" and "narrative constructivism" as well as the views on teaching and learning "transmission", "radical constructivism" and "social constructivism". Concerning the epistemological beliefs scale reliability was partly problematic (α=.50-.75) but for the second construct acceptable (α≥.66).  Therefore the questionnaires have been revised for the main survey taking place now. History teacher students and experienced history teachers answered the main surveys (n=228). Initial analyses show the same factor structure and acceptable scale values for both (α=.60-.85). At the same time video observations took place of two history lessons of two experienced participants. Stimulated recall interviews were conducted with the teachers using videotapes of their lessons. Content analyzes (Mayring 2000) will be developed to analyze both materials.

First results:
The first quantitative analyzes show that history teacher students and experienced teachers supported constructivist positions for both constructs. But averages show that they hold more than one position. Correlation analyses show relations between positions that exclude each other logically. For example connections were found between transmission and constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning in history. A qualitative case analysis underlines this result. The teacher in this sample hold strong constructivist beliefs for both constructs but he used student centered as well as teacher centered methods (Nitsche 2016).

Future research:
To combine quantitative and qualitative research coding systems must be developed which connecting the concepts of the questionnaires with qualitative material. At the same time, a way must be found to evaluate the material not only guided by theory.

Evans, Ronald W. (1990): Teacher Conceptions of History Revisited: Ideology, Curriculum, and Student

Belief, in: Theory & Research in Social Education 18 (2), pp. 101-138.

Fenn, Monika (2013): Vom instruktionalen zum problemorientierten Unterrichtsstil. Modifikation der Handlungsroutinen von Studierenden, in: Susanne Popp et al. (Hgg.): Zur Professionalisierung von Geschichtslehrerinnen und Geschichtslehrern. Nationale und internationale Perspektiven, Göttingen, S. 327-342.

Hofer, Barbara K.; Pintrich, Paul R. (1997): The Development of Epistemological Theories: Beliefs about Knowledge and Knowing and their relation to Learning, in: Review of Educational Reasearch 67 (1), pp. 88-140.

Hofer, Barbara K. (2001): Personal Epistemology Research: Implications for Learning and Teaching, in: Journal of Educational Psychology Review 13 (4), pp. 353-383.

Kunter, Mareike et al. (2013): Professional Competence of Teachers: Effects on Instructional Quality and Student Development, in: Journal of Educational Psychology 105 (3), pp. 805-820.

Leinhardt, Gaea et al. (1994): A sense of history, in: Educational Psychologist 29 (2), pp. 79-88.

Maggioni, Liliana et al. (2009): Walking on the Borders: A Messure of epistemic cognition in history, in: The Journal of Experimental Education 77 (3), pp. 187-214.

Mayring, Philipp (2000): Qualitative Content Analysis, in: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 1 (2), URL:>. Date accessed: 20 Nov. 2015.

Messner, Helmut; Buff, Alex (2007): Lehrerwissen und Lehrerhandeln im Geschichtsunterricht - didaktische Überzeugungen und Unterrichtsgestaltung, in: Peter Gautschi et al. (Hrsg.): Geschichtsunterricht heute. Eine empirische Analyse ausgewählter Aspekte, Bern, S. 143-175

Muis, Krista R.; Foy, Michael J. (2010): The effects of teachers’ beliefs on elementary students’ beliefs, motivation, and achievement in mathematics, in: Bendixen, Lisa D.; Feucht, Florian C. Feucht (eds.): Personal Epistemology in the Classroom. Theory, Research, and Implications for Practice, Cambridge, pp. 435-469. 

Nitsche, Martin (2016): Geschichtstheoretische und -didaktische Überzeugungen von Lehrpersonen – begriffliche und empirische Annäherungen an ein Fallbeispiel, in: Buchsteiner, Martin; Nitsche, Martin (Hrsg.): Historisches Erzählen und Lernen, Wiesbaden 2016, S. 159-196.

Staub, Fritz C.; Stern, Elsbeth (2002): The Nature of Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Beliefs Matters for Students’ Achievement Gains: Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Elementary Mathematics, in: Journal of Educational Psychology 94 (2), pp. 344-355.

Wineburg, Sam (1991): Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Processes Used in the Evaluation of Documentary and Pictorial Evidence, in: Journal of Educational Psychology 83 (1), pp. 73-87.