Teaching History using feature films: Practitioner acuity and cognitive neuroscientific validation


Donnelly, D. (2014). Teaching History using feature films: Practitioner acuity and cognitive neuroscientific validation. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 12(1), 16-27.

IJHLTRThis paper reports on the findings of Australian educational research that investigated the role of historical feature films in secondary history education. The study found that a significant proportion of teachers are drawn to using historical feature films as they engage and motivate today’s visually-orientated students and that these films connect them emotionally and intellectually to narrative frameworks. The data revealed that most history teachers developed their film implementation and integration strategies through an intuitive process based on a combination of ‘trial and error’, professional experience and knowledge of the learning styles and preferences of their students. That being the case, the teacher participants had little or no awareness or acuity regarding underlying cognitive neuroscientific links to their pedagogical practice. However, recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience offer explanation and affirmation for teachers’ classroom observations and propose avenues to further explore the already attested value of historical film as a pedagogical tool. This paper will highlight the research findings in regard to the history teachers’ acuities in their use of historical feature film, align these with recent cognitive neuroscience discoveries and suggest further pedagogical pointers for history education stemming from the use of neurological research.
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