Using film to think historically about the civil rights movement with elementary preservice teachers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lisa Brown Buchanan (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Wayne Journell

Abstract: This descriptive case study describes the use of documentary film to teach historical thinking in one undergraduate elementary social studies methods course. The study was situated within a teacher education program at a midsized public university in the Southeastern United States. Eighteen students were enrolled in the course. Of the eighteen students, one student self-identified as biracial and seventeen students self-identified as White. I was the instructor for the course meetings. Over a period of four weeks, students viewed four different documentary films using anticipation guides, corroborated a variety of historical sources, and engaged in whole group Socratic dialogues in class. Following each of the four classes, students completed written reflections related to the process. Each week, students explored a new theme in the social studies curriculum and a different historical thinking skill. Case study method was used and data collection methods included pre and post questionnaires with Likert-style and open ended response items, students' viewing anticipation guides, transcribed Socratic dialogues, and students' written reflections. Data was coded and analyzed using the constant comparative method (Glaser, 1965; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Study findings revealed that students understood the documentary films to be realistic and informative historical sources, and frequently had emotional reactions to the four films. Students most often cited the film sources in their responses, and used the films to identify popular narratives and counter-narratives and engage historical empathy; however, they did not interrogate the film sources in the same way that they did the other historical sources. Additionally, the films seemed to promote students' engagement with multiple controversial issues. Instructional implications for social studies education as well as implications for student learning are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Documentary film, Elementary social studies, Elementary teacher education, Historical thinking
Social sciences $x Study and teaching $z United States $v Case studies
Social science teachers $x Training of $z United States $v Case studies
Elementary school teachers $x Training of $z United States $v Case studies
Social sciences $x Study and teaching $x Audio-visual aids
History $x Study and teaching $x Audio-visual aids
Motion pictures in education

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