Teaching and Learning War Research Network: Education and Modern Conflict in an International Comparative Perspective

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: History

Abstract

The Teaching and Learning War research network brings together EU and international researchers and stakeholders, from a range of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds, to explore young people's engagement with and receptivity to the cultural memory messages of the two world wars from an international comparative perspective. At the centenary of the First World War in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand young people find themselves 'front and centre' of both state-sponsored and community-level commemorations. As the two world wars fade from living memory, young people across the Commonwealth have been singled out as those who will be carrying the memory of the war forward. Early indications suggest similar emphasis will be placed on young people in the 80th and 90th anniversaries of the Second World War.

It is at this juncture, as the commemorative focus in Britain and the Commonwealth shifts from the First to the Second World War, that new questions arise about 1) the ways these cataclysmic events are taught in the 21st century, 2) what cultural memory messages feature in education, and 3) how young people respond to and interpret these messages. While study of memory and war remembrance has intensified in recent years, the way young people engage with the cultural messages about these seminal historical events is largely unexplored. Interrogating the practices of teaching and learning about war remembrance has the potential to illuminate how memories of war are shaped. As Roediger and Wertsch identify, education is one of the 'core disciplines for a new field of memory studies' since 'many of the almost unconscious attitudes that students have about the past' are traceable to elements of 'the educational process'. The two world wars - as crucial moments of crisis where the 'British world' came together as a larger community of common interest - remain significant features of the curriculum, both formal and informal, in Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. At the same time, they raise important questions about the teaching of the history of the British Empire, an area of heated contemporary debate across the Commonwealth. These four case studies share a narrative of white, imperial masculinity and sacrifice for Empire largely compatible with the rise of a sense of national identity, thus allowing for coherent enquiry. However, the distinctiveness (or otherwise) of these case studies needs to be held up against the experiences of indigenous peoples in these white settler colonies as well as the experience of non-white colonies in these conflicts such as Kenya, Jamaica or India. To enable us to develop a larger research project on this theme, networking events will centre on four main questions:

1. How do young people think about the past?
2. How have indigenous and/or ethnic minority histories been integrated into the representation and teaching of the two world wars?
3. What role does empathy play in the teaching of the two world wars?
4. How does youth-centered commemorative activity compare across the British world?

This research network is distinctive because of the disciplinary boundaries it seeks to break down, particularly between history, memory studies, education and literary studies; its focus on the memory and representation of the two world wars from a comparative perspective; and because of the ways it will foster international collaboration and the development of strong links with overseas researchers and professional stakeholders, particularly in the education sector. It capitalises on and consolidates informal links between a number of existing networks including AHRC-funded projects; IWM; UCL IoE Centre for Holocaust Education; First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme; British Empire at War Research Group; Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative and Histories; Youth Research Group; and Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict project.

Planned Impact

Direct beneficiaries:
a. Teaching professionals in the secondary sector engaged in teaching the two world wars and the British Empire through history, literature or film.
b. Museum educators and curators engaged in communicating their holdings on these historical events to young audiences.
c. Organisations directly involved in youth-centered commemorative activity of the First World War and those considering the forthcoming Second World War anniversaries.
d. Young people in secondary education studying the two world wars and the British Empire.

Indirect beneficiaries:
e. Educational policy makers and exam boards.
f. Professional organisations developing programmes of CPD.
g. Members of the media considering ways to learn from the FWW centenary in anticipation of the major anniversaries of the Second World War.

The overarching objective is to open up discussion and dialogue between key academic and non-academic stakeholders around the theme of young people's engagement with and receptivity to the cultural memory messages of the two world wars and the British Empire. Specific impact objectives are:

1. Developing our understanding of working with young people in the co-production of research and heritage projects (Events 1 and 4)
2. Reflecting on the centenary commemorations of the First World War centenary in anticipation of the major anniversaries of the Second World War with specific focus on media and educational outputs (Events 2 and 4)
3. Interrogating the scope and usefulness of using literary texts for children and young adults to enhance learning about war and war remembrance (Event 3)

The success of this research network relies on close collaboration with secondary school teaching professionals, professional organisations (English Association, Historical Association and History Teachers' Association Australia), young people in secondary education in Britain and the Commonwealth, official government representatives of commemoration, representatives and community workers from the museum and heritage sectors, and members of the media. Each event has been carefully configured to ensure representatives from all these sectors will have the chance to engage with the project, contribute to discussion, review and discuss findings from these discussions, and recommend changes to teaching policy and commemorative practice on the basis of our findings. Our research network is unique in the way it has specifically carved out space for young people to share their insights and critical reflections on commemoration thus inviting them to question engrained 'truths' and to take an active role in shaping commemoration, rather than just be told what is 'right'. Our close collaboration with the English Association means that our findings will almost immediately inform professional practice through the publication of a special edition of Issues in English. Similarly, our findings will be disseminated directly to history teaching professionals via the Historical Association's magazine, Teaching History. As a result, the research network will have influence on the CPD programmes that both organisations produce and regularly review for professionals in their sector. The podcast (Event 2) and PDF policy report will also act as important freely available springboards for those involved in commemoration and media production reflecting on their practice between the period 2014-18 as they move towards the major anniversaries of the Second World War. Both PI Pennell and Co-I Sheehan have extensive experience of working co-operatively with the non-academic stakeholders involved in this bid from previous externally funded projects and public engagement activity (teachers, professional teaching associations, official government centenary projects, community commemorative projects, and the media) and understand the best ways to facilitate dialogue and meaningful exchange around this shared agenda.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The impact feedback from our first event 'Their Past, Their Memory?' (September 2017) demonstrated that our non-academic participants were going to use the discussions that arose out of our workshop to reconsider their practice in engaging young people with ideas about the past. This included museum curators, computer game designers, teachers, battlefield tour guides and third sector activists. Similar responses were recorded in the impact feedback for our second and third workshops (April and September 2018 respectively) and the public roundtable hosted on 11 April 2018. The discussions stemming from the public roundtable have been collated into a free-to-download policy document 'Bringing the Marginalised into the Mainstream' targeted at all professionals, practitioners, and academics who are going to engage with the major anniversaries of the Second World War in the coming decades.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Meeting at DfE to report on pupil evaluation of FWWCBTP spring 2017
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Changes have been made to the FWWCBTP educational programme in accordance with the recommendations made in the evaluation report.
URL http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/newsandevents/news/articles/centenarybattlefieldtours.html
 
Description Policy Document: Bringing the Marginalised into the Mainstream: 'Hidden Histories', Public Engagement and Lessons Learned from the Centenary of the FWW
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/event-2/
 
Description Blog entry on Imperial and Global Forum, April 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Blog entry outlining the research network and its objectives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://imperialglobalexeter.com/2017/04/13/teaching-and-learning-war/#comments
 
Description Blog entry on Public History Weekly (June 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Blog post outlining the context of the research project and the work it intends to undertake.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/5-2017-21/anzac-and-the-place-of-dissent/
 
Description Creative Writing Competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Creative Writing competition for 11 to 15 year old school children in the UK. Young people were asked to produce creative pieces - a poem or a very short story - of no more than 750 words that deal in some way with either the First or the Second World War or the Holocaust. Judged by a leading children's author, Hilary Robinson.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/creative-writing-competition/
 
Description Cultures of Commemoration IWM Workshop 11 December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Presentation of work from various research projects: AHRC FWW in the Classroom; AHRC Teaching and Learning War Research Network; and AHRC Reflections project as part of a panel discussion on commemorative practice of the First World War and the impact of the centenary on young people/education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interdisciplinary day workshop 'Their Past, Their Memory?', KCL, September 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Day long workshop where panels of professional practitioners, academics and postgrads discussed the methods used to engage young people in the history of the First World War in education, museums, third sector outreach and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/event-1/
 
Description Participation in conference roundtable '100 years of Teaching, Learning and Understanding the FWW' at 1918-2018: An International Conference, Uni of Wolverhampton 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Network member, Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus, represented the network (and former AHRC project, 'The FWW in the Classroom' on which Pennell was Pi) as part of an expert roundtable: A Hundred Years of Teaching, Learning & Understanding the First World War: Where are we now?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.wlv.ac.uk/research/institutes-and-centres/centre-for-historical-research/centre-for-hist...
 
Description Presentation of research network activity at MSA conference, Copenhagen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Presentation of research network activity to date as part of a panel of the Memory Studies Association conference, December 2017 in Copenhagen
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Press release regarding FWWCBTP pupil evaluation 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Press release detailing the outcome of the pupil evaluation 2017 for FWWCBTP that I ran
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.centenarybattlefieldtours.org/news/2018/january/22/reflections-on-student-surveys/
 
Description Press release regarding student evaluation report of FWWCBTP 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press release outlining my collaborative work with the DfE FWWCBTP running their pupil evaluation 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/newsandevents/news/articles/centenarybattlefieldtours.html
 
Description Public Roundtable: 'Hidden Histories', Public Engagement and Lessons Learned from the Centenary of the FWW 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public roundtable for a general public audience consisting of representatives from museums, media, academia and education to discuss what lessons have been learned from the centenary of the FWW in regards to integrating 'Hidden Histories'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/event-2/
 
Description Workshop: Marginalised Histories of the Second World War 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Workshop on Marginalised Histories of the Second World War - leading to special edition of 'War and Society' (2020)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/event-2/
 
Description Workshop: The Empathy Effect: Teaching Literature about the World Wars and the Holocaust 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop examining the use of literary texts in teaching about the history and the remembrance of the First and Second World Wars and the Holocaust.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://teachlearnwar.exeter.ac.uk/events/event-3/