From the Head of History, Barry Smith
Contemporary understandings of representations of war
At the end of last year, History students in Years 8-12, including History Extension, were involved in a research project conducted by Dr Heather Sharpe from the University of Newcastle. They were asked to respond to a range of written and visual sources concerning the Gallipoli campaign during a lesson. The purpose of this was to investigate the extent and types of “disciplined knowledge” and of “the postmodern challenge” evident in students’ responses.
This was linked to the National Curriculum outcome that … An understanding of world history enhances students’ appreciation of Australian history.
The aim of Dr Sharpe’s research was to understand how high school students think about Gallipoli, in the year of its centenary commemorative events. Waverley students were asked for written response on how Gallipoli should be remembered; its significance to them as individuals; and, viewpoints they think should be included in Gallipoli discourses.
The research findings showed how our students felt the need to look at multiple perspectives of Gallipoli. These should include an identification of Australian Indigenous, British, New Zealand and Turkish perspectives. It was also noted that the fighting spirit of soldiers seems to have been a consistent theme. When made aware of the long and proud tradition of the Cadets at the College, Dr Sharpe mentioned that this provided a unique flavour to the research findings.
Overall, our students displayed, “a sophisticated understanding of the commemoration of Gallipoli and subsequently what might be missing from contemporary sources that could be rectified through the inclusion of broader perspectives.” In a most positive manner, students of History at Waverley College were also interested in, “engaging in a more complex historical understanding of Gallipoli” and, “are interested in learning and evaluating rival narratives in history.”
Finally, I would like to thank the Head of College, Ray Paxton, the Director of Curriculum, Elizabeth Watson, and History Faculty members for their support in this research project. The findings certainly suggest the development of critical thinking skills in our students, and the upper levels of the Liberate model in terms of evaluation and synthesis of information.