“We can’t really know cos we weren’t really there”: Identifying Irish primary children’s bottleneck beliefs about history

Authors

Caitriona Ní Cassaithe

Fionnuala Waldron

Thérèse Dooley

Abstract

While there has been a wave of interest in epistemology as a field of study, there have been few studies focused on primary-aged children and even fewer on their epistemic beliefs about history. Due to the lack of research with younger age groups, much of the explanatory power of the prevailing frameworks in epistemic research has been extrapolated from research conducted with older populations. To address this concern, this paper reports on a series of semi-structured interviews designed to identify primary children’s beliefs about the nature of history and historical knowledge. Thematic analysis of the data provided a rich and textured insight into their understanding of the nature of history and historical knowledge and it was found that these beliefs appear to have their origins in both the children’s experiences of history and their common sense (or domain-general) ideas of how the world works. This analysis also highlighted a number of “epistemic bottlenecks” (beliefs about the nature of history and historical knowledge that served to constrain historical understanding). Though emergent, these bottlenecks parallel older students’ preconceptions of the nature of history. This suggests that if unchallenged, the epistemic beliefs young children form about history in the early years can remain relatively stable throughout their education. Identifying and challenging those beliefs that can constrain student understanding is therefore crucial to both a student’s learning experience and the progression of their conceptual understanding of history.

Keywords

Epistemic bottlenecks, children’s epistemic beliefs, historical knowledge, historical enquiry, conflicting accounts

How to Cite:

Ní Cassaithe, C., Waldron, F., & Dooley, T. (2022). “We can’t really know cos we weren’t really there”: Identifying Irish primary children’s bottleneck beliefs about history. Historical Encounters, 9(1), 78-100. https://doi.org/10.52289/hej9.105

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  • Published 15 April 2022

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License