Using feature film in the teaching of History: The practitioner decision-making dynamic.


  • Debra Donnelly University of Newcastle, Australia


History education, film making, film narratives


Historical feature film has the potential to engage and motivate today’s visually-orientated students and can bridge the school and life world of the students habituated to access via numerous electronic portals.  It is not surprising that international scholarship suggests that these multi-modal recreations of the past are being used as teaching resources in many history classrooms. However, the use of historical filmic narratives is not without its problems and issues as films are made with no obligation to adhere to evidentiary records and are often impacted by commercial imperatives. This, coupled with the limitations of the art form, often leads to manipulation of the narrative and the inclusion of fictionalized elements. History educators are faced with the dilemma how best to harness the engagement of film and test its historical representation. This paper reports on an Australian research project that explored the decision-making dynamic of history teachers in regard to the use of feature films. It found that the dynamic was governed by a complex interplay of factors in relation to teaching context, learning community perceptions and practitioner understandings and strategies, and concluded that teacher disciplinary perceptions were a major contributing factor in the decision-making process.