‘They want to feel like they are represented within the curriculum’. A sociological study of the teaching of history in schools in a multicultural society.

This study explores current teachers’ pedagogy and attitudes concerning the teaching of diverse histories. The murder of George Floyd in the US in May 2020 sparked the protests of the political movement, Black Lives Matter, in the UK and the conversations surrounding the experiences of Black British people has risen significantly. How do we, for example, explore, teach, and remember our history in Britain? To answer this question, it is important to gain further understanding about how we teach history in secondary school education. Although recent events and research have been focused on Black British experiences, this study will take into account all experiences of those from ethnic minority backgrounds, due to the multicultural nature of British society. Therefore, ‘diverse histories’ in this study means the histories of those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The research was conducted using semi-structured interviews, with ten teachers, at five secondary schools. Using thematic analysis, the data was coded resulting in sub-themes and themes, to examine the teachers’ experiences and understandings of the history classroom. The findings demonstrate motivation for selecting teaching as a profession, which was influenced by their strong interest in the subject; they wanted to educate their students about the knowledge and skills they gained from their own previous study of history. Interestingly, tensions were highlighted as to who decides the content to be taught and ‘how’. Four of the five schools in this study were academies; should it be the academy trust, who are the leaders of the school, or should it be the teachers who are in the classroom with the students who decide? Teachers accept the ‘uncomfortable’ conversations they have with their students on ‘race’ and diversity, by not shying away from them, but approaching them methodically in the classroom.

Ultimately, the findings suggest that the teachers’ pedagogical practices when teaching diverse histories heavily includes the awareness of their students learning and the latter’s identity. Despite its modesty, this study proves useful as a starting point for more research to be conducted into the teaching of diverse histories in the secondary school classroom. The murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests in the UK have arguably sparked changes about how the UK remembers its past, effecting our approach to education in a changing society.