The Making History: Narratives and Collective Memory in Education / Faire de l’histoire: Récits et mémoires collectives en éducation

The Educational Research Unit (ERU) advances the production of historical knowledge by providing a site for collaborative, bilingual research into educational history, focusing on the Outaouais Region, and the University of Ottawa’s role within it. The ERU aims to make visible historical archival sources in local boards of education and other educational sites, and to collect more records through its digital oral history centre. It aims to encourage academic analysis and dissemination of these records by graduate students as well as the ERU members, and the inclusion of such records into curriculum products by undergraduate students in both the Anglophone and Francophone sectors. The ERU will be particularly attentive to educational history which is interdisciplinary, bilingual, and sensitive to issues of race, place, culture and gender as constituent forces in the making of history. The ERU will create and support organizational infrastructure through its website, and its digital oral history centre, the provision of office space for storing digital recordings, the training of students and the transcription of data. The intellectual products of our joint academic efforts will be disseminated through invited seminars, conferences and an edited collection.

Objectives of the research program:

  1. To document how factors of linguistic identity, disciplinarity, gender, place, culture, race and class influence the experience of schooling and the collective memory of it in a site like the Outaouais;
  2. To explore how oral history can influence the narration of educational history;
  3. To create a collaborative model that will assist in the education of new scholars, and of new teachers of history; and
  4. To make use of new technologies to bridge such partnerships.

Context, conceptual or theoretical framework, research questions of the ERU:

The aforementioned objectives for the Making History: Narratives and Collective Memory in Education / Faire de l’histoire: Récits et mémoires collectives en éducation are contextualized in a widespread interest in questions of historical memory and consciousness, critical pedagogy as it is applied to the Foundations of Education, and a need to rethink the effective teaching of the history of education in various communities and levels. Of particular interest to this working group are the possibilities of merging digital information systems with oral history, especially as these relate to the history of schooling in the Outaouais Region. As reference for this resurgence in interest in the field, the Centre for Historical Consciousness at UBC has engaged in exciting work over the past few years. More recently, Penney Clark at that Centre has obtained a significant grant to explore components of the teaching of history at all levels. This proposed ERU responds to these recent developments in the field by articulating a positive, long-term and bilingual component of our Faculty which will raise our profile in the academic community by providing another and distinctive example of a robust and historical educational centre in a Canadian Faculty of Education. Our proposal stresses the need to collect local educational resources and publications which address such elements as bilingualism, anti-racism, gender, engagement with First Nations’ communities, and citizenship studies, within the larger framework of historical narratives and to make these materials available for use by researchers, teachers, and the public through digitization. It aims to utilize particular methodologies, such as oral history and experimentation with digital video documentary life-histories, that provide an alternative space for marginalized groups to voice their lived experiences with the institution of schooling.

At the same time, local boards of education have ceased to provide discipline-specific support to local teachers, particularly in such areas as the effective teaching of History. This ERU aims to fill a significant gap in professional development for such teachers, many of whom are graduates of our Faculty of Education. Local boards of education also have resources in their archives which should be made available for research purposes. We propose to systematically survey these resources, create scanned digitized versions and produce bibliographies for our website of published materials at the board level. The result is that educational partners will be supported by the ERU’s evidence-based research.

The ERU also aims to create a strong history of education scaffold that stretches from the undergraduate levels (in both sectors of our Faculty) through the Master’s and Doctoral levels through to the teaching field at the school and post-secondary levels. This ERU will provide support for researchers by emphasizing the features of interdisciplinarity, anti-racist education, and linguistic, regional, class and gender dimensions of History, particularly as these found expression in the local Outaouais community. Fundamental to the conceptual orientation of this unit is the belief that history must be brought to hear on the debates and issues of today, especially ones discussed in Faculties of Education and in the educational community served by the Faculty.

The group shares the following conceptual framework:

  1. Educational practices are specific to time and place; hence, the educational history of the Outaouais Region, including that of the University of Ottawa, is an exciting and productive site to explore educational practices and experiences;
  2. Schooling, we believe, is a key site for the operation of broader social phenomena, including gender, racism and social class;
  3. Knowledge of the past is central to understanding contemporary educational issues such as historical evolution of curriculum policy across Canada;
  4. The historical record and collective memory associated with education must be expanded and enriched, we argue, through methodologies like oral testimony, stored digitally; and
  5. Scholars working in a field such as this one are supported – and in turn, can enrich – the work of community partners engaged in public history.

Our key research questions are:

  1. How do factors of linguistic identity, disciplinarity, culture, gender, race and class influence the experience of schooling and the collective memory of it in a site like Ottawa?
  2. How can oral history influence the narrativity of educational history?
  3. How can a collaborative model assist in the education of new scholars, and of new teachers of history?
  4. How can a research collective housed in a Faculty of Education work more effectively with community partners such as Library Archives Canada, the National Museums, Histori.ca, Heritage Canada etc?
  5. How might we bridge such partnerships on our website?