How does the use of narrative nonfiction in the Key Stage 2 history classroom affect learning, specifically in comparison to the use of nonfiction?

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Education and Professional Studies


Narrative is thought to be the 'fundamental instrument of human thought' (Turner, 1996:4), yet within the Key Stage 2 classroom, narrative is usually confined to the teaching of specific English skills (Duke, 2000; Kiris et al., 2011). If narrative is so fundamental to human cognition and thought, perhaps it should be utilised more widely across the primary curriculum to teach a range of subjects such as history. However, there are concerns that using narratives in the history classroom might reduce history to myth (Barthes, 1993), as narratives are not always factual. To counteract these concerns, narrative nonfiction is proposed as a potential solution. Narrative nonfiction is entirely factual, drawing on reliable sources and evidence, but is written using literary devices and structures commonly associated with fiction writing, such as close attention to plot structure, character development (Alpert, 2006; Gutkind, 2007). Therefore, this text type combines accurate information, which is essential when teaching subjects such as history, with narrative devices, which appeal to our basic cognitive functioning, creating a potentially powerful teaching tool (Bage, 1999). This research aims to compare the impact of nonfiction and narrative nonfiction on history learning in the Key Stage 2 classroom. Two phases of research will be conducted to do so. Firstly, a survey will be emailed to Year 5 and 6 teachers in approximately 16,500 schools across England, exploring teachers' understandings of narrative nonfiction as a genre and how teachers categorise text extracts. Inferential statistics will be presented to create a picture of how different texts are typically perceived and used in primary schools. Chi-square tests will be run to explore any potential relationships between demographic facts, awareness of narrative nonfiction and perception or use of genres in the classroom. The second phase of research will involve a comparative experiment. The participant sample will comprise 4 Year 5 classes, with 2 classes from 2 different primary schools, producing a sample of approximately 100 children. This phase of data collection will take place over 5 weeks. The interventions will begin in week 2. Each class will be delivered by a 30-minute history lesson on a focused topic, followed by a 30-minute intervention. One class from each school will be assigned to experimental condition A, and the other to condition B. Background information on classes, such as participants' ability and socioeconomic background, will be collected to compare similarities and differences of classes within and between schools and experimental conditions. Participants in experimental condition A will be read a short NNF text relating to the content of the preceding history lesson. They will then be given a list of questions which aim to assess their second-order knowledge, and asked to discuss these questions in small groups. Discussions of questions will be audio-recorded. Classes in experimental condition B will follow the same procedure, with the same discussion questions, but will be read a short nonfiction text. Both texts will be closely matched according to content and difficulty level. This process will be repeated once in Week 3 and once in Week 4, with different historical focuses. In week 5, children will complete a written post-assessment, to reassess their substantive knowledge.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1916178 Studentship ES/P000703/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2019 Emma Browning