Historical novels key to boost student engagement

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

University of Adelaide School of Education senior lecturer Dr Grant Rodwell is calling for history to be taught in a more speculative manner, stating it would better engage and inform students about past events.

This innovative teaching method is detailed in his new book, Whose History: Engaging Students through Historical Fiction.

"Historical fiction is enjoying boom times in the Australian book industry, as well as in film and television; however, despite the genre's popularity, the interest in studying history at school and university is declining," Dr Rodwell says.

"Research clearly shows that integrating historical novels into the teaching of history results in more in-depth discussions on the philosophy of history and various historians' points of view.

"The 'what if' is very important to engage students and develop their higher-order thinking and their general historical literacy."

According to Dr Rodwell, highly regarded historical novelists respect history and most historical novels contain very accurate details of past events.

"I'm not arguing that some teaching of history should be based on historical novels - students should already have a solid grounding of historical events before novels are introduced - however, there are very few facts in which historians can agree and often historical fiction is written to correct missing or misinterpreted historical facts."

"There are many examples of great historical novels that are both entertaining to read and provide readers with thought-provoking and accurate historical information, including Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869), Kate Grenville's The Secret River (2005) and Stephen King's 11.22.63 (2011).

"Teachers can simply choose texts based on the historical topic being taught in the class and the needs of the students."

Dr Rodwell's book will be launched at the University of Adelaide's Barr Smith Library, in the Ira Raymond Room, on Monday 30 September, from 5:30pm.


Contact Details

Dr Grant Rodwell
Email: grant.rodwell@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/grant.rodwell
Associate Head of Professional Experience
School of Education
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8313 5941
Mobile: +61 411 757 492

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