Epistemological tensions in prospective Dutch history teachers׳ beliefs about the objectives of secondary education

Bjorn G.J. Wansink, Sanne F. Akkerman, Jan D. Vermunt, Jacques P.P. Haenen, Theo Wubbels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades we witnessed ongoing debates about the objectives of history education, with different underlying epistemological perspectives. This qualitative study explored prospective history teachers׳ beliefs about these objectives of history education. Prospective history teachers of six universities starting a teacher educational programme were invited to answer an open-ended questionnaire about history education. Six objectives were found: (1) memorising; (2) critical/explanatory; (3) constructivist; (4) perspective-taking; (5) moral; and (6) collective-identity objectives. Almost all prospective teachers mentioned several of these objectives. A distinction between two epistemological perspectives on historical knowledge representation (factual or interpretive), was used as a framework for categorising the different objectives. More than half of the respondents mentioned objectives of history education that represent history as factual and objectives that represent history as interpretive. We propose that in actual practice most history teachers are combining epistemologically opposing objectives for pedagogical, political and religious motives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-24
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Social Studies Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Epistemology
  • History education
  • Objectives
  • Prospective teachers


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