South African Society for History Teaching

SASHT Conference 2008

Conference Feedback 2008
Chairman’s Report 2008
Photos of Conference

Barbara Wahlber (PDF, 49kb)

Transcontinental Reflections in the Revised South African History Curriculum on Globalism and National Narratives-Elize Sonja van Eeden (PDF, 145kb)
Exploring the concept of an ‘historical gaze – Carol Bertram (PDF, 74kb)
What is in a name?- Johann Strauss (PDF, 13kb)
Histories that creep in sideways – Emma-Louise Mackie (PowerPoint, 197kb)

Secondary school History teachers assessing Outcomes-Based Education (OBE): a case study – Pieter Warnich (PDF, 42kb)

Celebrating creative history teaching (PowerPoint, 39kb)
Teaching How To Make Specific Historical Causal Claims – Edmund Zizwe Mazibuko (PDF, 46kb)
Some implications of an outcomes- based curriculum in the subject of history – Carol Bertram (PDF, 27kb)
The textbook writers’ panel (PDF, 9kb)

The 2008 SASHT Conference
Cape Town, 26-27 Sept 2008

Mr Jimmy Verner
(SASHT Chairperson)

After an initial welcome to the slave Lodge Museum and the Conference by Prof. Rob Siebörger a formal welcome was proposed by Prof Rudi Laugksch (Director of the UCT School of Education) who pointed out that as the conference theme was “Celebrating History Teaching” it was appropriate to meet in the slave lodge which had housed the very first school in S.A. It had been for slave children He made the point that the SASHT was able to bring together teachers, academics and department officials to share ideas and to motivate and stimulate each other.
A further welcome reviewed aspects of 350 years of schooling in S.A. when Prof. Crain Soudien of the UCT School of Education spoke of a new approach to history which looks carefully at the idea of agency or the ability of people to act in a given situation. It was a very thought proving talk in which he encouraged us to consider what the recorded archives and histories ignored. In taking note of this we need to proceed beyond the traditional binary system of writing history – conqueror and conquered/black-white/believers-unbelievers and so on. We need to go beyond these ideas and to look at the hidden aspects of history remembering that archives are constructed in dominance and history written by the victors. We need to find and tell the story of the forgotten people.
In April 1658 the first school was established in the Cape for slave children so that they would be of more use when they were older. This idea that the purpose of schooling was to make useful workers was to continue for the next 350 years and the slave children’s resistance by running away was a part of the pattern of youthful resistance that led to the events of June 1976. Another example of where the traditional histories need revision is in their perspective of the Khoi peoples who are often seen as aimless and disorganised but the story of Genadendal disputes this. We need to look at how the displaced peoples can speak from places of submission and be autonomous as people beyond the politics of domination.
After tea the first session of conference papers began with Pieter Warnich of North-West University analysing problems that teachers were experiencing in the FET phase because of OBE and OBA in particular. He had found in his research that most teachers’ knowledge of OBE was theoretically adequate but that they had difficulty in putting OBA into practice. This was also partly through time constraints. As a teacher in the classroom I felt he had identified very much with the way many of us felt – in theory fine but too time-consuming and complicated to put into practice when pressed for time.
Johann Wassermann of the University of KZN then looked at the June 2007 history examination papers as well as looking at the exemplar papers for November 2008 grade 12. These examinations all have some serious flaws and perhaps a more rigorous system of review is necessary.
Barbara Wahlberg (University of KZN) looked at the question of oral history among first year students in the FET phase and found that many schools had neglected this aspect of history research. Students often had no idea of how to structure an interview and the need for consent and release form agreements. It is important if we are to look at those “stories of the forgotten people” Prof Soudien spoke of as these stories are often only to be found orally in the memories of parents and grandparents. Barbara used the expression of “oral history as giving voice to the voiceless”.  Teachers at all levels need to encourage more use of oral research.
The conference then adjourned for a tour of parliament which was of great interest, not only for the history of the buildings but for the debate on free speech which we heard.. The tour was followed by lunch, then back to conference papers.
Gail Weldon of Western Cape Education Department spoke of the “Facing the Past” programme which aimed to help the youth to become good citizens by using history education to encourage people to engage with their personal legacies of apartheid. It expects teachers to act as agents of change and does appear to be successful in making learners more sensitive to issues around human rights and discrimination.
Johann Strauss (North-West University) spoke of what is in a name and the recent spate of name changes for roads, etc. Although seemingly light-hearted in his approach, his talk did generate some strong views, which is probably inevitable as such a political issue does tend to rouse emotions. Names are more significant than Shakespeare indicated when he said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Gill Sutton of Herzlia High School looked at ways of bringing stories into our classrooms, taking the opportunity of arms deal publicity to link the sailing of our new submarine SAS Queen Modjadji from Kiel harbour to Simonstown in April this year to the story of the Rain Queen. She showed how she used photographs to help link the story to the learners’ lives and to help form a basis for their worksheets.
A break for tea and then an interesting introspection by Rob Siebörger of UCT as he “Owned up to the past”. He spoke of his experiences in writing the Turning Points in History series and how our own backgrounds inevitably colour the way we see things. We need to be especially open to things like race which may have a very subtle influence on our thinking.
Louisa de Sousa of North-West University spoke of her experience in the use of multi-media such as DVD in teaching at FET level and the impact it had on the students. Although in most cases the students enjoyed the multi-media presentations there was little statistical difference in their achievements.
The final presentation of the afternoon was from Carol Bertram of the University of KZN who explored the idea of “an historical gaze”. This links to the way we look at events and try to ensure that learners are aware that contexts change and that this affects the way people react. She stressed the need to ensure that history is made accessible to those wanting to learn and one way of achieving this is to develop an historical gaze (which links to the introspection Rob spoke of and which should help us to hear the hidden voices of those Prof Soudien referred to as “God’s forgotten people”).
For dinner we moved venue to the School of Education building on UCT Upper Campus after which we were given the keynote address on Celebrating History Teaching by Jacqui Dean of the Nuffield Primary History Project. Not so much a talk as a workshop in which we were a class and “did” history. She used an interesting and innovative way of teaching and one which whet the appetite for her Saturday workshop. It also ensured our attention by making us do much of the work – often in groups where discussion could be quite lively on issues such as what particular pictures relevant to the ancient Olympic Games actually showed.
Saturday morning began with the society’s AGM which was surprisingly well attended. The meeting went beyond the set time but the business of the meeting was achieved – various annual reports and the election of a new committee. We then moved on to the only parallel sessions of the conference: Dylan Wray on Facing the past, transforming our future; Simon Haw on Extended writing; and Jacqui Dean on the Nuffield Primary history. I attended Jacqui’s session as I was intrigued by hints of historical detective work mention before we left on Friday evening. I was not disappointed and enjoyed the story of the unravelling of Henry’s schooling and how he got to move school.
Over tea we looked at various book displays before moving off to a session on textbooks. First a panel of textbook writers who all have different publishers and to some extent different target markets within the secondary school. Despite this many of the frustrations (and satisfactions) were the same. After the panel had given their views and a question and answer session with the audience the panel dispersed and Prof Elize van Eeden of North-West University spoke on the revised history curriculum and textbooks from a Transcontinental Perspective.  She looked at issues like the balance between globalisation issues and a national perspective; at the textbooks’ treatment of issues like OBE, IKS, assessment and methodology and the need to bring diverse voice to join their “my” histories to create a “we” or “our” history.
The conference over with a few votes of thanks to people involved, we picked up our lunch packs and dispersed. A day and a half of intense thinking about our subject, with a lot to digest slowly over the coming weeks, and new perspectives and ideas sown in our minds, was over. It had been a busy and successful conference which should help to ensure that the 2009 conference in Johannesburg will be well attended.
Jimmy VernerChairman, SASHT