How to teach teachers to teach the history of everyone, anywhere


Erik Ketcherside

Lauren Harris calls the Wiley International Handbook of History Teaching and Learning “the largest-scale project with which I have been involved.” The associate professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is co-editor for this compilation of 25 chapters contributed by more than 40 scholars around the world, sponsored by the American Educational Research Association.

Harris is a good pick for editing this volume. She has joint faculty appointments in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. She used to teach ninth-grade world history. And this book deals with two of her research specialties: the complexities of large historical narratives and the content knowledge of history teachers.

Still, it was an immense effort, enlisting dozens of collaborators to assemble a review of research on history teaching and learning around the world. On the day the manuscript went to the publisher for copy editing, Harris answered some questions about it.

Why is this book important?

This is the first reference handbook specifically focused on history education. There have been previous handbooks that included chapters on history education, but this is the first dedicated volume. The development of this handbook signals the growth and the importance of the field of history education internationally.

What was your approach to the project?

My co-editor, Scott Metzger from Penn State University, and I divided the book into five sections. These include topics from within history education such as “Ideologies, Identities and Group Experiences” and “Policy, Research and Societal Contexts.”

I co-authored a chapter with Brian Girard at The College of New Jersey, titled “Global and World History Education,” and we also have chapters on critical theory, writing and historical argumentation, gender and sexuality, Black history textbooks in North America, and digital history games and simulations. Our chapters were written by authors from eight countries.

How were you selected as co-editor?

I had just been elected chair of AERA’s Teaching History special interest group in 2014 when the publisher, Wiley, contacted me to see if the history group would be interested in sponsoring a handbook. Our executive leadership team decided it would be a terrific opportunity for the field, and the publisher suggested there would be advantages to having one or more of the leadership team serve as editor. Scott was the previous chair of our SIG, and I decided serving as co-editor with him as the lead would work well for me, given my other projects at the time.

Had you tackled other projects like this?

Definitely not! This is my first book project and certainly the largest-scale project with which I have been involved. It’s been very exciting. The first challenge was for the editors to engage in the intellectual exercise of selecting the sections and chapters for the book and then deciding which scholars to invite to write the chapters.

We really needed to think about the growth of the field over the past 25 years and consider where it may be heading. We had tremendous response from the invited authors. Of course, the book has been more work than expected, so I’m particularly grateful to my research assistant, Stephanie Reid, for her help over the past year. [Reid is pursuing a Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College PhD in Learning, Literacies and Technologies.]

What are your goals for the handbook?

One of the main goals was to have an international focus as much as possible, both in authorship and within each chapter. In seeking experts in different areas of history education we were able to largely draw from the Teaching History SIG membership, because we have scholars from many countries. We also wanted to make sure the book emphasized the “teaching and learning” aspects in the title and that we focused on research of key concepts in the field such as historical thinking, reasoning, consciousness and empathy.

And your hopes?

We hope the book will be an authoritative reference work for the field that will provide a foundation for future research work and teaching in history education.

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