Teacher training seminar

December 2015

Memory Studies Network organised successful teacher training seminar

From 27-28 November 2015 the Estonian Memory Studies Network organised an intensive teacher training seminar entitled “Collective memory and controversial narratives in teaching of Estonian 20th century history.” The training was supported by the Centre for EU-Russia Studies (CEURUS).

After two successful international conference in 2013 and 2014, this year the Memory Studies Network decided to organise its annual event in a different format, focusing on a more applied approach to the teaching of history and memory at Estonian secondary schools. Thus, network members from various disciplines, including political science, ethnology, history and literature, joint forces and offered a two-day training seminar for teachers of history, civics and Estonian language and literature at secondary schools of both Estonian and Russian as the main language of instruction. The aim of the training was two-fold: first, to make history teachers reflect more on the interactions between history teaching, inter-cultural tolerance and civic education as well as on their own role as mediators between different levels of memory and narrative contradiction in the classroom; second, to provide practical guidelines and tools for filling out this role and to facilitate independent and critical thinking among young people about the past and present-day Estonian society.

The interactive training addressed numerous important issues such as the challenges and possibilities faced by the teachers when teaching contemporary Estonian history; the relationship between history and moral lessons; the representation of Russians in Estonian history textbooks; the uses of  memoirs and life stories in history teaching; how to deal with contradicting narratives in the classroom; and how to organise oral history projects with the students. In addition, the participants watched and discussed the new Estonian movie “1944” (2015) that narrates a story of the war in Estonia that includes different and often contradictory perspectives and experiences of the war.

The seminar was very popular among teachers. Altogether twenty teachers from all over Estonia (from Tallinn, Tartu, Põlva, Otepää, Rakvere, Lähte, Mustvee, Valga, Türi, Paikuse, Mõisaküla, Luua, Paide, Lagedi, Väike Maarja, Kose, Ülenurme) took part. They actively and openly discussed the sometimes rather sensititive issues and, according to the feedback received after the seminar, enjoyed the discussions greatly. In particular, they appreciated the balanced format of the training that combined strong interactive and practical training with information about the results of  academic studies in and about history teaching in Estonia. Moreover, the open atmosphere that made it possible to share different opinions and viewpoints was highly appreciated among participants. The teachers concluded that similar training seminars should be offered more frequently thus enabling them to also discuss their practical experiences with applying the tools and methods in the classroom with the university scholars.

For more information on the seminar, please contact Heiko Pääbo (heiko.paabo[at]ut.ee])