Contemporary Multi-modal Historical Representations and the Teaching of Disciplinary Understandings in History


  • Debra Donnelly University of Newcastle, Australia


History, historical concepts, contemporary historical representations, historical understanding


Traditional privileging of the printed text has been considerably eroded by rapid technological advancement and in Australia, as elsewhere, many History teaching program feature an array of multi-modal historical representations. Research suggests that engagement with the visual and multi-modal constructs has the potential to enrich the pedagogy and make the classroom encounters significant and relevant to students’ world life outside and beyond school. However, these multi-modal creations of the past are often compromised with agendas and pressures beyond traditional historical evidence, research and writing. This leave the history teacher to navigate the tension that arises from the cognitive, affective and “beyond the classroom” appeal of these historical representations and the quest to teach evidence-based, memorable history. This pedagogical dilemma was the focus of an Australian research project that used survey, interview and case study to investigate the utility of these historical-based contemporary representations in the teaching of disciplinary concepts in the History classroom. This paper presents a synoptic model of the broad research findings and uses case studies to provide examples of effective pedagogies. The unit plans from the case studies are also appended.

Author Biography

Debra Donnelly, University of Newcastle, Australia

Dr Debra Donnelly is a history educator and senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, lecturing and co-ordinating undergraduate and postgraduate programs. She has a secondary school background with extensive classroom, school administration and welfare experience across a range of educational settings in Australia and internationally. Debra’s research interests centre on the role of the visual and media in the development of historical and global consciousness in an age of ever-increasing access through modern technology. Her research explores, and seeks to clarify, the relationship between teacher conceptual frameworks of understanding and problematic knowledge, multi-modality, and pedagogical practice.