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Oral history and history teaching

Compared to other countries, oral history is hardly used in the classroom. The 2018 discussion file ‘Oral history en geschiedenisonderwijs,’ compiled and introduced by Susan Hogervorst, argues that oral history should also be given a more prominent place in history education in the Netherlands. Not only do oral sources give pupils access to the recent past, but they also stimulate them to think about the reliability and representativeness of sources that talk back.


In the first article Tim Huijgen presents the results of a questionnaire conducted among Dutch teachers and pupils. Both groups were generally positive about the use of oral history, but it was hardly ever used in the classroom and teachers received little support in its use.


In the second article Marloes Hüsken discusses exploratory research into the possibilities of oral history in higher education. She concludes that oral history contributes to the development of empathy and interdisciplinary skills, but that historical reasoning and critical thinking are sometimes hampered by the aura of authenticity.


The last two contributions deal with the digitisation of oral sources and its applications in education. Editor Susan Hogervorst writes about an experiment in the classroom comparing eyewitness accounts on the one hand and video interviews and transcribed interviews on the other. According to Hogervorst, video interviews are a suitable mix of orality and authenticity, but also distance, which is often lost in direct eyewitness accounts.


Finally, Norah Karrouche writes that it is valuable to teach pupils to digitise their own interviews. This is a good way for pupils to explore a place in the historical process, creating and preserving sources themselves.