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Article 4: A not-so-hidden curriculum: using auto/biographies to teach educational history.

Autobiography and biography are productive genres for exploring historical events and processes, even as such works have sometimes held a peripheral role in the 'community' of history of education scholarship. (1) This paper focuses on the pedagogical productivity and challenges of a recent graduate course I offered in auto/biographical research as a method of introducing students, indirectly, to issues in educational history, particularly those affecting the lives of marginalized people. The course primarily focused on methodological approaches and issues in the craft of auto/biographical scholarship. However, I also conceptualized the course as a productive site for incorporating historical issues, in part as a response to low levels of student interest in history of education courses at our public research institution and the general college, and increasingly on a national level, malaise regarding foundations courses in general. Indeed, declining support for history of education courses is a national trend, as Goodchild and Spencer's analysis presented at the History of Education Society indicate (2013). Donald Warren's insightful article charting the ebbs and flows in levels of support for the interdisciplinary field of Social Foundations also suggests more broadly that (both manufactured and legitimate) educational crises and public calls for school reform, accountability, and 'practical' subject matter, often renew scrutiny of foundations courses (Warren 1998).

Goodall and Spencer suggest that historians of education need pedagogical tools for their labor and perhaps particularly so in a time of "precipitous" decline of history of education offerings (2013, 2). Such a decline has widespread implications for the type of knowledge students absorb and faculty create. If we are to take this call for pedagogies seriously, discussing specific teaching approaches and wrinkles we encounter in the process can only enhance our "community" mission. While educational biographers have championed the genre as a way to highlight educational patterns in individual lives, the methodological complexities involved in crafting auto/biographical work are compelling avenues for discussing processes of historical construction more broadly. As biographer Hermione Lee has expressed artfully, biographers must contend with an array of challenges in researching lives--the "epic and the absurd, legends and gossip, gravity and foolishness," as well as difficult subjects, fragmentary records and suspicious descendants (Lee 2009, 38).

The genre offers opportunities to consider how social and structural forces shape subjects' lives differently. Tuchman writes that "as a prism of history, biography attracts and holds the reader's interest in the larger subject" and "encompasses the universal in the particular" (Tuchman 1996, 74). Indeed, Lucy Townsend and Gaby Weiner's text, Deconstructing and Reconstructing Lives (2011), and Linda Morice and Laurie Puchner's text, Exploring Issues in Educational History through Biography (2013), detail how biographies remain underutilized resources in connecting readers to the lives and investments of historical figures. While scholars have explored issues in educational history through the lens of autobiography and biography previously, as well as considered ways to teach educational biographies in varied courses, my interest here is in considering how to incorporate historical content and issues in courses focused on other subject matter that remain core offerings, such as qualitative methodology, in a period in which sustaining history courses poses increasing challenges.

Educational scholars have published various resources to aid those interested in incorporating autobiographies and biographies into their historical research and teaching. Particularly useful in this regard are the annotated bibliographies they have painstakingly compiled. For example, more than thirty years ago, Tom Cook published a bibliography of auto/ biographical accounts in the History of Education Society Bulletin (1977) which Tom Gammage (1980) extended to increase awareness of such archival resources available for history of education scholars. Gammage's bibliography listed primary sources in the context of the United Kingdom grouped into three categories: teachers, pupils outside of public schools, and school affiliates such as inspectors, school board officials, and administrators. This rich set of documents represented three centuries of primary sources covering a wide range of perspectives, including unusual little gems on women's experiences in teaching, in elementary, middle and boarding schools, and in the workforce. They also noted reflections in informal educational spaces, such as one woman's experiences with tuberculosis in an Arizona sanitarium. In addition to such tools, others discussed the value of incorporating short narrative vignettes into history classrooms to bring historical issues to life; the journal, Teaching History, provides varied vignettes for supplementing historical lessons. (2) Townsend, Kridel, and Morice and Puchner's collections focus on employing autobiography and biography in contemporary educational settings, extending our ways of thinking about "educator's lives, and lives that are educative." (3)


Views are always from somewhere (Haraway 1988)

I teach in a small foundations program at a public land-grant university that offers diverse courses in qualitative methodology rooted in the theoretical foundations of research. We also offer core courses in philosophy of education, diversity and equity issues, anthropology of education, and comparative education, among others. In the ten years I have been teaching for this institution, we have struggled to attract sufficient numbers of undergraduates to fill our introductory history of education course. The course is not required for education majors but fulfills a social science requirement in the general education curriculum at the university. In addition, our unit currently offers one graduate course in history every two years for our doctoral students, and occasionally, a specialization course such as the History of Education of Women. Other programs in my college, such as Higher Education and Curriculum Studies, require their doctoral students to take a history course in their field, and our unit sends interested students to those courses, as well as those in the Department of History. With Goodchild and Spencer's observations about the decline of history courses in mind, however, I often wonder about the fate of such foundations courses, if they were not required--not because of their value, of course, but because the machinations of neoliberalism fueling contemporary higher education render "education" synonymous with "skill sets" that are not immediately evident in history courses. As higher education weathers massive funding cuts in our age of accountability, I also wonder how much enrollment competition, disciplinary silos, and faculty ambivalence about the importance of foundations shapes how advisors recommend courses to their students.

In light of these challenges, and what many foundations faculty see to be the sobering implications of doctoral education insufficiently grounded in historical sensibilities and study, I have experimented in recent years with incorporating historical components in more of the service, required, and specialization courses our program offers, including contemporary gender and education, diversity and equity, and qualitative methodologies. I do not see this approach as substituting for core history of education courses; rather, I see it as a way of better integrating core foundations content across our four program domains, as well as supplementing and expanding student awareness of historical issues or "historical (modes of) thinking" that Goodchild and Spencer advocate (Goodchild and Spencer 2013). To be sure, this approach does little to advance the kind of "signature" pedagogy to which Calder (2006) aspires in history survey courses or stem the tide of assaults on many areas of the humanities and foundations. It is simply one strategy among many to work both within current conditions, and against them, to produce spaces of possibility.

The course I describe here was designed to teach methods in the craft of Auto/biographical research in education. I also tried to create the 'conditions of possibility' (4) throughout the course to incorporate what I term here as the 'not-so-hidden curriculum' of historical documents, issues, and information. This play on words draws from the well-known concept of the 'hidden curriculum', coined to refer to an array of social norms and values lurking behind, and channeled via, the overt curriculum, and seems an apt term to refer to the valuable historical undercurrent enhancing the course that may not have attracted students if it was the focus of study. I offered the course over an 8 week summer term, meeting two times per week throughout, save a vacation day over the 4th of July and a project day close to the end of the term. Each class meeting was approximately two and a half hours in duration. I used an array of methodological and narrative articles, supplemental documents, book chapters, and five primary texts representing varied forms of life-writing and issues in educational history.

Rather than ordering the texts chronologically in terms of historical period or publication date, I scheduled them generally in the order of their placement on a methodological continuum representing different emphases and genres in life writing. A key concept guiding my approach emerges from the theoretical work of feminist scholar, Liz Stanley, who poses the word auto/biography with a slash to convey what she sees to be epistemological and ontological commonalities in "autobiographical" and "biographical" genres of life-writing. She also considers the author's work and life as connected to "the life" under study. While other scholars view the project of autobiography as a task that differs profoundly from biography, Stanley's wording suggests that the "auto" (authorial self) is always deeply imbricated in the "biographical" (life under study) project, and vice versa (Stanley 1995). (5) She writes of her biography of Hannah Cullwick, "I may be 'the biographer'... but this biography ... necessarily became a part of my autobiography" (Stanley 1995, 159). Indeed, some researchers choose their biographical and oral history projects precisely because they are members of the group under study or feel a particular affinity for their subjects. As Paula Salvio phrases it, in a line that I interpret and use in a variety of ways in my work, (6) "teaching and scholarship are inevitably decisions of the flesh" (Salvio 2012, 25). For the purposes of this course, I chose to adopt this theoretical approach, which conceives of projects as always blending aspects of the auto/bio to emphasize the diverse choices available to life-story researchers and to explore rationales that a given researcher might have for choosing one representational emphasis or another.

On one end of the continuum, and at the beginning of the course, I placed a text that the author explicitly and intentionally crafted as an autobiography. On the other end of the continuum and at the end of the course, I placed a collection of life stories compiled through interviews with groups of teaching activists who identify with a larger cause. The other texts in between represented various intersections of the "auto" and the "bio" elements I emphasized on the methodological spectrum in the course. While Stanley's premise may unsettle historians who adopt an objectivist research stance that perceives the author's subjective presence in the text to intrude on the research mission, the different exemplars illustrate both the diversity of narrative forms that characterize the contemporary auto/biographical landscape and the varied vehicles available for incorporating elements of educational history.

The ordering of the texts thus reflect different emphases in authorial and narrative voice. All of the texts I chose incorporate the author's first person voice to different degrees, an "I" that appears against the backdrop of his/her social history, or an "I" that is in conversation with his/her biographical subjects, or an "I" that is personally implicated in narrating a family or activist history. Yet how much the author foregrounds the "I," the subject of study, and the portrait of historical context fluctuates across the texts.


"In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own" (Quindlen 1998).

I began the course with a series of articles and handouts introducing students to core terminology and ideas in auto/biography. I used excerpts from Michael Quinn Patton's classic qualitative research textbook, Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (2001), as well as Adra L. Cole and J. Gary Knowles' Lives in Context: The Art of Life History Research (2001) to convey the differences among, for example, oral history, life story, autobiography, and biography in contemporary research. Providing this shared foundation for the group seemed important given students' diverse fields of study (literacy, higher education, foundations) as well as the contemporary proliferation of concepts and approaches in auto/biographical methodologies. I also offered English professor Jane Tompkins' introduction to A Life in School which narrates her disillusionment with traditional academic teaching and writing conventions that have long dominated the academy to the detriment of students' inner lives. Tompkins describes her process of abandoning many of her most cherished beliefs about teaching and learning and the new approaches she embraces after her long "life in school." This chapter provided a provocative starting point for discussing historical shifts in higher education, and how, for instance, cultural and historical context shapes individual teachers' experiences.

We moved quickly into the first full text of the term, Richard Rodriguez's The Hunger of Memory (1982), which was the most transparent and accessible of the texts I chose in providing a first-person popular, and originally quite controversial, account of an English language learner's transition into the American educational system post Brown v. Board of Education. In the first pages of the text, Rodriguez hints to the struggles of immigrants, and their children, in adapting to an educational system conceived and conducted in a different language, and the identity changes that can accompany the process. He writes, "Language has been the great subject of my life. In college and graduate school, I was an 'English major.' But well before then, from my first day of school, I was a student of language. Obsessed by the way it determined my public identity. The way it permits me here to describe myself, writing ..." (Rodriquez 1982, 6). The text moves through Rodriguez' early schooling experiences, struggling to learn and to feel a sense of belonging, to feeling increasingly isolated from his family as the years passed and dedication to academics increased. The work fits the genre of an intellectual autobiography in focusing primarily on a subject's development of his intellectual orientation to a life of language rather than, for example, offering a comprehensive biographical portrait of an individual's life experiences.

Rodriguez draws from such experiences to offer a series of controversial opinions about schooling practices that provided opportunities for our class to discuss policies and practices in educational history. For instance, Rodriguez argued against bilingual education programs, for which Hispanic-American social activists advocated in the 1960s to allow children whose primary language was not English to speak their native language in schools. He argued, "it is not possible for a child--any child--ever to use his family's language in school. Not to understand this is to misunderstand the public uses of schooling and to trivialize the nature of intimate life--a family's language" (Rodriguez 1982, 10). His discomfort with Affirmative Action, with classifying genres of writing as 'minority' literature, with some student activism, all provided opportunities to discuss the implications of approaches to teaching language and policies and activism for advancing the rights of students of color. Although Rodriguez clarified that the text reflected solely his own life story, he trusted that it may "resonate with significance for other lives" (6). For class purposes, it offered historical traces of significant changes and debates in educational practices with diverse implications for the lives of English language learners and students of color in majority-white and English-speaking institutions.

The second text to which we turned was Harold Lloyd "Bud" Goodall Jr.'s remarkable narrative "portrait," A Need to Know: The Clandestine History of a CIA Family (2008), which presented Goodall's investigation into his father's life as a CIA agent that he undertook as much to understand the implications of his father's life for his own, as to capture an elusive truth about his father's history. The narrative began with the compelling phrase, "I wrote this book because I could no longer not write it," which captures, from the first page, Goodall's autobiographical investments in the project, as well as the undercurrent of urgency and necessity driving the inquiry. As data sources for his historical memoir, he draws from the mysterious three artifacts his father left him--a bible, a diary, and a copy of the novel, The Great Gatsby--an array of childhood memories from around the globe, conversations with his mother, silences in the archival record, as well as varied primary documents such as his father's "dummy" CIA file. Throughout the text, Goodall wrestles openly with both the promise and the complexities of auto/biographical inquiries as methods to understand historical events: "This was his story--my father's secret life and his reasons for keeping it secret--and it was also History" (Goodall 2008, 24). His artful wording suggests biography's potential to link the "universal" and the "particular" to which Tuchman refers (1996, 74).

Like Rodriguez, Goodall was a scholar, and his text reflects his awareness of the ethical, methodological, and representational complexities of conducting auto/biographical research and its utterly contextual nature. In particular, the research challenges that Goodall encountered echo those of other historians facing sparse archival records or mobilizing their Subjects' lives and documents without hope of consent or validation, while in his case also laying bare, from a family member's perspective, the potential value and costs of historical interpretations. Goodall's compelling notion of "narrative inheritance" guiding his work suggests that family narratives are a form of inheritance that unfold and shift as additional generations fuel and feed them. The term refers to the "afterlives of the sentences used to spell out the life stories of those who came before us" (Goodall 2008, 23). In the wake of Goodall's death in 2012, it seems clear that his labor, his storytelling, and his need to know that fueled his research now offer an irreplaceable contribution to his family and History (his story) for his own children to inherit. However partial that story, "for those of us on the receiving end of those stories of relatives and times past, what we 'know' about the people and places involved is often limited to what is contained in those words" (Goodall 2008, 77)

This layered narrative offered multidimensional historical lessons for our group to consider. Goodall's account unfolds in the shadow of the Cold War, providing glimpses of the political tensions and contextual forces that shape his schooling experiences and family life. Indeed, Goodall "teaches" about the Cold War throughout the text and argues, using his family's life as examples, that national political investments and systems profoundly shape individual lives. He wrote, "... history is too easily represented as the battle of opposing forces and ideas rather than the personal engagements, hard work, and sacrifice of women and men" (Goodall 2008, 131). The text also offers historiographical lessons: questions about the legitimacy of archival sources, the 'near misses' that can occur in research, the role of absences as sources of data. To capture this spirit of secrets and gaps, I titled that syllabus section "secrets were sacred things" (Goodall 2008, 304). Indeed, the machinations evidenced in Goodall's quest for archival traces of his father's life and his scrutiny of both documents--and absences--in the historical record underscore the labor involved in crafting historical portraits. Goodall peppered his text with representations of photographs and documents with falsities and redactions from his father's CIA file that were touchstones for his thinking, and became so for ours. Further, because he explicitly narrates his questions, uncertainties, and interpretations throughout his lengthy and circuitous research process, he demonstrates scholars' choices and anxieties that are so often invisible in polished final accounts.

The text we explored during week five of the eight-week term was Tsianina Lomawaima's oral history, They Called it Prairie Light (1994). I arranged for a guest speaker from the Oral History Program at our university to share aspects of oral history as a methodology and product. Their website also offers videos and transcripts from varied regional projects that students could peruse. The text that might be most familiar to educational historians among those I chose, Prairie Light, presents and analyzes the experiences of Native American students who attended Chilocco vocational boarding school in Northern Oklahoma during the 20th century, one of whom was Lomawaima's father. (7) Like Amanda Cobb's study on the Bloomfield academy for Chickasaw females (2000) which Cobb's grandmother attended, Lomawaima's pathway into her research was through her family, informal networks, and cultural allegiances to preserving the histories of Indigenous people. The text consists of a rich tapestry of accounts of boarding school life, from children's severe losses and transitions in leaving home, to social and residential activities, to the students' labor sewing, cooking, cleaning, and farming that enabled the school to survive. With a deft touch, Lomawaima weaves Michel Foucault's notions of surveillance and discipline with student's oral histories and select school records to narrate Chilocco as an "Indian school" and to emphasize students' resistance to Anglo power relations and assimilationist imperatives.

Lomawaima's study provides an opportunity to explore the schooling experiences of Indigenous people from their own perspectives, while also countering a common construction of Native Americans in historical scholarship solely as 'victims', rather than agents of their interpretations and lives. In contrast to scholarship drawing from archival records that governmental employees produced, and interpretations emphasizing boarding schools as a method of cultural extinction, Lomawaima turns to Indigenous voices as "living archives" of the historical events who experienced the school differently than founders intended. The text underscores the importance of oral history as a method of preserving historical insights from the standpoint of those who lived through them--particularly members of sovereign nations whose perspectives dominant groups have primarily erased, distorted, or ignored. Lomawaima separates her discussion of the "auto" biographical aspects of her work into a preface and afterward, and her theoretical and interpretive tools, while visible, appear as light supportive architecture for the narrative accounts. At times when I have used this text in my geographic context, as was the case this summer, relatives of Chilocco residents have taken the course and provided additional perspectives that have personalized, particularized, and thickened group learning. In the wake of Goodall's text, such discussion also nourished conceptions of "narrative inheritance."

The fourth text we explored was Paula Salvio's historical biography of Anne Sexton, a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and teacher who committed suicide in 1974 at age 45. It is the most explicitly theoretical expression of auto/biographical and historical work that we covered during the term and, in that regard, the most challenging. In this unique study, titled Anne Sexton: Teacher of Weird Abundance (2012), Salvio uses psychoanalytic and poststructuralist theories to analyze aspects of Sexton's life and teaching. A poet whose work often focused on corporeal complexities in women's lives, Sexton was neither a traditional teacher nor a subject to occupy biographical center stage. The study thereby expanded our investigation into auto/biographical expressions through insights into a different type of historical subject. Salvio conceptualizes Sexton's positioning, in fact, as a generative site for theorizing education and biography, because of the critical light it casts on dominant gendered expectations governing teaching and teachers, and the figures considered appropriate to study.

Like the other texts we explored, Salvio's treatment also offered insights into auto/biographical and historical methodologies; in this case, through inviting the reader to read chapters in any order and describing intersections between Sexton's experiences and her own. The text offered insights into data sources used to craft women's biographies and the challenges one woman (and by extension, many others) faced as a teacher in her historical context. This theoretical approach, which challenged our group in different ways, nevertheless provided a productive juxtaposition with Goodall's masculinist framing, writing, and content (Goodall 2009), to help represent the range of tools and representational styles available in contemporary auto/biographical theory that are beginning to glimmer in educational history. (8) I supplemented the text with examples of historic "rules for teachers" and recognized other opportunities to incorporate transcripts, course catalogues, and secondary treatments of Sexton to better contextualize her life/teaching historically.

The final text we perused was Kathleen Casey's collection of life histories of activist teachers, 'I Answer with My life:' Life Histories of Women Teachers Working for Social Change (1993). This text is divided into chapters, which each focus on the life histories of, in order of presentation, female Catholic teachers, Jewish teachers, and African-American teachers who spent their daily lives working for social justice on behalf of their communities. The book offers a different kind of auto/biographical subject, a group, that answer in unison with their activism the question, "what is the meaning of your life?" (Casey 1993, xiv). For this study, Casey deliberately works to unsettle dominant educational accounts and dismissive constructions of 'plain old vanilla-ice-cream-type teachers' to explore the philosophies and activism of "ordinary, anonymous authors whose ideas have ... only been known in their immediate social circles" (Casey 1993, 27, 3). She positioned the work in historical sociology, analyzing women's accounts both "horizontally" (to their whole lives) and "vertically" (through changes over time), and "relating the relevant moments of contemporary labor history, history of education, and histories of political mobilizations and organizations" in the United States (Casey 1993, 17).

Due to time constraints, these life histories received the briefest treatment of any of the works we explored. Yet they offered rich examples of shifting structural forces shaping teacher's lives over time, and the local activism in which progressive teachers engaged: teachers' negotiation of religious school doctrine; responses to charges of teacher's communist leanings during the 1950s; teachers' activism in women's and civil rights movements; racial constraints shaping black teachers' lives; revisioning white institutions for the use of black communities; activist conceptions of leadership; justice work with the homeless, women in prisons, and community members. Cumulatively, the text stretches and critiques dominant educational accounts.


I have explored in some detail the texts I used to highlight educational history while focusing on the central mission of the course to explore auto/biographical approaches used in educational research. To accomplish another goal of the course, to gain practice in research techniques, I assigned two projects to complement both the "auto" and the "bio" emphases: a modest photovoice project (worth 25% of the grade) and a mini oral history (30%). The photovoice project required students to take photographs or to have a participant take photographs of phenomena that represented intersections between auto/biography and education. Participants then narrated the meaning and content of the photos. Students were asked to "frame their position in relation to the project" (Tierney 1998, 51) and ground their work in class readings. The topic was intentionally broad to welcome diverse interests and connections to readings, and most used the opportunity to take photographs to explore auto/ biographical phenomena in their personal or professional lives. Topics included first-generation student experiences, returning to school as an adult, learning through family stories and objects, and family members' journeys in the teaching profession.

Most students chose to use their photovoice projects to supplement and extend the work of their oral history projects. For the oral history project, students primarily chose to conduct oral histories with teachers, or other educational subjects, related to course content. They designed and submitted applications to conduct research with human subjects to the Institutional Review Board of our university, recruited participants, interviewed a single participant multiple times or several participants one time, recorded and transcribed their data, and submitted a final paper explicitly integrating data with course readings. On the final days of class, students shared their projects and grounded them in course readings. With approved IRBs, some have continued developing their work to present or publish after the course.


"The world is bigger than the book" (Casey 1993, 166)

My discussion thus far has focused on how I conceptualized the course, how I chose texts and assignments, and which components we highlighted in the texts. Yet course dynamics and learning far exceeds mere texts and design, and it is those vibrant interchanges that underscored the gap between my pedagogical hopes and what we could enact in our time together. In this section, I explore challenges I faced in carrying out my original mission and the adjustments I would make in future if I taught this type of course with a 'not so hidden' curriculum again.

One key challenge was simply negotiating and carrying out the varied goals I envisioned in the time available. In short, I took on too much; it couldn't all be done. It was impossible to balance fully and effectively the research approaches and data sources the authors mobilized to build their studies, the complexity of methodology and historiography, the individual/group life under study in each resource, and their broader educational context. At times, we found ourselves immersed in a few textured pages at a time. In addition, structural factors such as the length of the summer session, limited time in each session, the extent of the course readings and assignments, and the multiple goals interfered with systematically investigating historical events. We were exposed to productive glimmers and moments, and students conducted localized studies that supplemented and expanded their learning, but we left other opportunities unexplored.

And, as it should be, the organic nature of student interests and learning pathways carry courses in directions instructors cannot anticipate in advance. This was certainly the case in our learning community. While some students were encountering certain texts and events for the first time, others were familiar with particular ideas and approaches. The important time needed to explore and discuss those rich connections and issues as a group meant overshadowing other productive directions in methodology and educational history we could have explored. These conversations were particularly rich and meaningful. For example, Rodriguez's controversial opposition to Affirmative Action prompted significant debate about the value of and recent court rulings on the policy. Similarly, the implications of Rodriguez's internalization of the "boot strap" ideology of success prompted attention to the structural impediments of schooling that limit student success. His gradual distancing from family as his educational journey unfolded also stirred discussion of the losses and tensions students of color and immigrant students can face as they negotiate family allegiances and cultural identity with schooling practices that reflect the dominant culture. Thus, our attention to the details and implications of individual stories enhanced our experiences but also directed us away from our overt curriculum focused on research methods and the hopeful 'hidden curriculum' of highlighting historical issues. In my post course reflections, Calder's caution about "coverage-oriented pedagogies" in survey history courses seems a salient reminder that however fond we are of facts and texts, content and volume does not equate to learning (2006, 1367).

To teach a similar course again that strives to highlight educational history in a core course, I would explicitly identify and convey that hope at the advance of class, champion it as a value, weave it into course objectives, and structure the texts and assignments around two or three key historical moments. The texts I used this term, for example, could be regrouped into historical periods, introduced through short lectures and visuals, and extended through requiring students to identify and share documents, records, and other artifacts from those time periods to enrich their learning. James W. Fraser's (2014) collection of primary source documents would serve some courses well in this regard. In providing several broad historical treatments of, for example, co-education, Indigenous education, and teacher activism during the Civil Rights Movement, I could situate several methodological approaches to researching educators and events in that time period. I would also use short vignettes representing a wider array of voices.

Lastly, I might also structure the course more firmly around specific methodologies such as oral history and biography rather than a continuum of autobiographical to biographical approaches. I asked students to consider varied analytical questions as they read: "what is the author's research purpose? Which methods, tools, and data sources did they use? What voice did they adopt in the text?" These questions were effective for analysis. Yet to grapple with methodological diversity alongside studies of intriguing historical figures might have further muddied methodological clarity, as well as historical take-aways. The course focus highlighted the complexity of historical research, but we simply ran out of time to consider events in detail.

In the process of conceptualizing this research methods course, teaching it, and then reflecting further for this essay, I remain committed to the mission of developing creative ways to introduce historical concepts and content--and other social foundations content--but must strategize further how best to accomplish it alongside the other goals and needs we have in serving students. I wonder, too, how class community members might reflect on their experiences now. Advocating for focused social foundations courses while exploring creative approaches appropriate for our teaching contexts is necessary work in changing times.

Lucy E. Bailey

Oklahoma State University


(1.) Some historians have viewed biography disdainfully, as "fragmentary," "trivial," a "poor relation" to history or a "hanger on" (Kendall 1986, 32).

(2.) See, for example, Paul Barrett, "My Grandfather Slammed the Door in Winston Churchill's Face! Using Family History to Provoke Rigorous Enquiry" 145 (December 2011): 14-21.

(3.) The International Society of Educational Biography uses this phrase to describe their mission.

(4.) This term was popularized by Immanuel Kant.

(5.) In contrast, Kridel emphasizes the important methodological reasons to draw boundaries between biography and autobiography (Kridel, 2008).

(6.) See for example, Bailey, 2014.

(7.) Also see Kim Brumley, Chilocco: Memories of a Native American Boarding School (Fairfax, OK: Guardian Publishing House, 2010).

(8.) As one example, see (Goodman, 2003).


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Author:Bailey, Lucy E.
Publication:American Educational History Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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