The conference "History didactics meets special education - interdisciplinary perspectives on historical thinking and disabilities" discussed the relations of history didactics and special education. In five panels, speakers from Germany, Greece, Italy, Austria, Sweden and the USA presented empirically oriented research projects, addressed theoretical potentials and limitations of inclusive history education and gave insights into the pragmatic implications of an increased interdisciplinary cooperation.
After a welcome address by the organizers Sebastian Barsch (Cologne) and Franziska Rein (Kiel), as well as a greeting by the Vice Dean of the university of Cologne Andreas Michel, the substantive part of the conference began.
In the first keynote, OLIVER MUSENBERG (Berlin) addressed the relationship between history didactics and special education from a historical perspective. Musenberg initially focused on the still unsolved problem of differentiation in an inclusive classroom setting as well as the interpretation of disability as an object. After his theoretical considerations, he presented a current research project dealing with the processing of a photo collection of Hans Würtz, a so-called “Krüppelpädagoge” in the 19th and 20th century.
In the first panel, CHRISTOPH KÜHBERGER (Salzburg / Hawaii) addressed the question of how inclusive historical knowledge can be conceptualized and described. He elicited different forms of knowledge and used a comparative analysis of Austrian general and special education curricula to illustrate the lack of attention paid to central ideas of history didactics. For instance, the training of historical thinking, in the curricula of Austrian special education centers. Afterwards, FRANZISKA REIN (Kiel) dealt with the potentials and limitations of virtual reality for historical learning. Among other things, she presented possibilities of using virtual reality in special education contexts. Rein concluded that virtual reality allows learning on different levels but should be accompanied teacher´s support for their students in order to adequately reflect the differences between fiction and reality.
CAROLINE CLORMANN (Gießen) gave insights into an interview study that aims to analyze the benefits of, and teachers' beliefs about, the use of media in history lessons in heterogeneous learning groups. Among other things, the interviews showed that from the teachers' perspective, the use of media should primarily serve the purpose of allowing as many students as possible to participate in the classroom. Furthermore, the interviewees emphasized the incompatibility of theory from history education with special education teaching practices, which would arise, for example, due to the great cognitive demands of teaching competencies. The incompatibility of theory and practice would further exacerbate teachers’ struggles regarding lesson planning and design, Clormann argued. JAN SIEFERT (Duisburg-Essen) gave a presentation on the connection between history didactics, special education, and German as foreign language education. Using examples from a Japanese and Chinese history book, Siefert presented the potentials of the “adapted genre-cycle” for inclusive history teaching, which could be particularly suitable for teaching history in multilingual classes. He argued that an increased focus on language learning should not come at the expense of content learning in order to make history instruction as inclusive as possible.
The first day of the conference concluded with SEBASTIAN BAUER’s (Ludwigsburg) presentation. He took a closer look at potentially exclusionary mechanisms in the formation of a historical identity. Bauer argued that people with profound intellectual disabilities, who cannot articulate themselves verbally, would be excluded from historical identity formation processes, as speech takes on a constituent function in identity formation. As a proposed solution, he discussed the possibilities of focusing more on phenomenological actions in historical learning processes to address this blind spot in the theory of history didactics.
SIMONE SEITZ (Bolzano) opened the second day of the conference with a keynote in which she discussed the role of dealing with time, and the understanding of time, in inclusive education for children with and without disabilities. Seitz illustrated on a theoretical level the centrality of the interplay of personality, sociality, as well as complexity and explored approaches to professionalization for successful inclusive education. Moreover, she addressed the still existing notion of homogeneous class communities in educational discourses and described the resulting uncertainty for teachers that heterogeneity in school classes would sometimes trigger. Furthermore, Seitz called for an intensification of empirical research in the context of inclusive education, citing, among others, childhood research and the professionalization of teachers in inclusive classroom settings as examples.
HEIKE KRÖSCHE (Innsbruck) opened the first panel of the second day discussing the relationship between intersectionality and disability from a history didactics perspective. She argued that greater attention to intersectional research perspectives is particularly necessary because, in the past, history didactics has mostly focused on the analysis of one category of inequality while categorical interactions had been of limited interest so far. ROBERT THORP (Uppsala) also focused on theoretical considerations, exploring how pluralistic ideas and critical thinking can be embedded in inclusive history education. He outlined the potential of meaningful relationships between learners and history, and presented a proposal that places the contemporary context and change of perspective at the center of teaching history. Thorp argued this would allow learners to establish meaningful relationships to historical contents based on their own contextual needs.
ERIC CLARAVALL (Sacramento) focused on the teaching of historical thinking and reasoning to people with learning difficulties in the last panel. He pointed out the persistence of deficit orientation in the description of this group of people as well as the implications of emphasizing the term “disability”. Claravall then presented a design-based research study in which scaffolding was used to help improve the post-test writing scores of the focused group. SUSAN KRAUSE (Bielefeld) addressed the historical imagination of blind people. She presented two empirical projects in which she conducted interviews with blind students from a tenth-grade class in one group and with blind adults in another group about an exhibition of the German Historical Museum in Berlin. She discussed the methodological procedure and the first results with regard to the imagination of the interviewed people. The final lecture was given by MARIA PAPADOPOULOU (Florina). Papadopoulou presented the results of a systematic literature review on applied methods within inclusive education for people with learning difficulties, emphasizing here the need to revise traditional methods and concepts for inclusive historical education. She then showcased the results of an empirical study with a child who used drawings to remember what was learned and to construct a narrative. According to Papadopoulou, the study illustrates that an orientation towards individual abilities empowers students with learning difficulties to develop narratives autonomously.
The conference contributed by bringing together theoretical, empirical, and practical perspectives on the relationship between history didactics and special education. During the conference, many lively interdisciplinary discussions were observed between the presenters and the audience, which contributed to a fruitful exchange about the intersections of the two disciplines. In addition, the networking time slots integrated into the conference program by the organizers provided an opportunity to further promote the internationalization of the two disciplines and to plan research cooperations. The conference addressed a topic on which there is still a fundamental need for discussion and created a space for concrete academic impulses that will hopefully be pursued during future research projects.
Oliver Musenberg (Berlin): On the Relationship between History Education and Special Education
Christoph Kühberger (Salzburg / Hawaii): Inclusive Historical Knowledge
Franziska Rein (Kiel): Historical Learning and Virtual Reality
Caroline Clormann (Gießen): How do teachers deal with media in history education for students with learning disabilities?
Jan Siefert (Duisburg-Essen): Cultural practice of narrated history as an object of inclusion. Culture and language sensitive history classes between teaching foreign language and inclusive class design – application of genre-cycle in history class
Sebastian Bauer (Ludwigsburg): Historical identity as an excluding concept? – The ‘unspoken’ parts of identity as an approach to teaching history in inclusive settings
Simone Seitz (Bolzano): All the time in the world? Time as a key concept and door opener to world knowledge for all children
Heike Krösche (Innsbruck): Intersectionality and disability – a relationship determination from a history didactic perspective
Robert Thorp (Uppsala): Inclusive history education: Historical thinking, powerful knowledge, and Gadamerian historical consciousness
Eric Claravall (Sacramento): Teaching Historical Thinking and Reasoning to Students with Learning Differences: Theory, Research, and Practice
Susan Krause (Bielefeld): ‘Blind’ imagination of the past. Empirical insights on schools vs. museums and their special handling and offers for persons with visual disorder
Maria Papadopoulou (Florina): Training Students with Special Educational Needs in History Education in Greece