|Title||Gatekeepers of local history instruction: An investigation into instructors’ backgrounds, decisions, and practices using The Making of Milwaukee curricular materials|
This study investigated the types of instructors who teach local history, factors affecting their instruction in the communitys past, and instructional practices employed to educate students about a localitys history. It examined teachers implementation of items from The Making of Milwaukee MOM) project which included a book, DVD series, curriculum, and website. Ninety-one users of the MOM resources completed a survey about themselves and their instruction which revealed differences at the elementary, middle, and high school levels leading to case studies involving interviews and document analysis with 11 frequent users of the MOM materials. Instructional portraits were written of each case study participant, and Thorntons 1991) metaphor of social studies teachers as “curricular-instructional gatekeepers” was applied to understand their decisions and practices. A profile of local history instructors indicated that local history is taught at all ages but was most prominent at the third grade level with instructors who had personal connections to the community, either 15 years or less of teaching experience, and a masters degree with no training in local history. Teachers backgrounds and external factors, including instructors perceptions of colleagues, students interests and abilities, and the compatibility and workload of the MOM materials, also affected their choices of learning goals, teaching methods, and assessments. The most significant factor affecting teachers decisions advancing or restraining their local history instruction appeared to be instructors conceptualizations of curricular obligations affecting their perceptions of freedom to spend time on the communitys past which revealed a framework with four different types of gatekeepers from the case study participants: commissioners, administrators, guardians, and an independent. The framework suggests that gatekeeping may not be as individualistic as portrayed by Thornton and allows social studies teachers to reflect on their own classroom instructional decisions. Mandating instruction, coordinating collaboration within schools and districts, promoting professional development opportunities, and designing flexible materials appealing to a wide range of instructors like the MOM resources could increase the role of local history in the classroom but also have limitations as well. More research involving in-depth case studies is needed to investigate local history instruction beyond an urban environment.
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