School history and perspectives on the past : a study of students of African-Caribbean descent and their mothers
This study attempts to understand the connections between students' attitudes
towards their history lessons and their ideas about what history is and what it
does. The principal focus of the study is on African-Caribbean students and their
mothers. The questions that the study seeks to explore include: What ideas do
students and their mothers hold about history on personal and social levels?
What aspects of history lessons do Students of African-Caribbean descent find
motivating? What picture of the past do their mothers want passed on by
schools during history lessons?
The thesis is set within the context of issues and challenges associated with the
education of African-Caribbean students in the past fifty years. It reviews
literature on the changes in the history curriculum and research on students'
understandings of history. Psychological theories pertinent to the study also are
explored. The empirical part of the study is chiefly based upon an analysis of the
responses of 124 students of African-Caribbean descent and non-African-
Caribbean descent aged 13-17 who were surveyed about their ideas of the past.
Following the survey a group of 12 students between the ages of 12 and 17 and
their mothers were interviewed in an attempt to explore their attitudes towards
the nature of history and their expectations of school history.
In the light of the empirical findings and educational and psychological theories,
conclusions are drawn about the ideas students use about the past and formal
history. Most importantly, consideration is given to how the ideas and
perspectives of students of African Caribbean descent necessitate a critical re-evaluation
of history curriculum, pedagogy, and practice in English schools.