Big Pictures of the Past

Ref: 03/25/2024 - 3202020
Name: Gerard O'Sullivan
Email Address:
Phone Number: 00 353 87 7113774
Institution Address: National Council for Curriculumand Assessment and UCD
Seeking a partner/s in: Northern Ireland

• ‘Big Pictures of the Past’ is a collaborative project involving researchers and history educators from the School of Education in UCD and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
• The researchers worked with a group of student teachers from UCD in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and a cohort of first year history students taught by them across different settings while on school placements, both in the first and second years of their PME studies.
• Acknowledging that acquiring ‘big picture’ understanding of the past is an integral part of the junior cycle history specification, the project is focused on ascertaining what types of ‘big pictures’, if any, junior cycle students possess, and how they might be supported to develop more robust ‘big picture’ understanding.
• The project also explores the nature and extent of ‘big picture’ understanding that student teachers possess.
• ‘Big picture’ mean the capacity to demonstrate long-term chronological understanding and to make connections between events and developments from different periods of time, or what might be termed the ‘broad sweep’ of history.
• The concept of student voice was invoked by the researchers as a key feature of the research approach, recognising the importance of students talking about their experience of learning and teaching in history, and ensuring that their voice has a meaningful impact on how these experiences are shaped.
• The researchers argue that using frameworks of eras can meaningfully support students to acquire meaningful ‘big pictures’ of the past. A framework is a device that can help students grasp the concept of ‘big picture’ thinking.
• As well as presenting a report, the researchers have developed an experiment framework that could be used in the Junior cycle classroom to support students’ ‘big picture’ understanding. It is called ‘Our History Scaffold’ and consists of 10 eras.