New approaches to the study of conflict in Ireland and Northern Ireland

The Teaching Divided Histories project has introduced new approaches to the study of conflict into school curricula across Northern Ireland and Ireland. Based on moving image and digital technologies, these approaches offer pupils stimulating ways of questioning myths and challenging stereotypes. The project team also worked to transfer knowledge between Northern Ireland and regions in Ireland affected by conflict by  delivering education in such a way as to promote peace and reconciliation.

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A screenshot of Teaching Divided Histories webpage © John Peto A screenshot of Teaching Divided Histories webpage © John Peto

" This project focuses on giving both teachers and pupils the skills that they need in the creative use of digital media to help explore different perspectives on our shared past. In doing so, learners gain both digital skills and a deeper understanding of our history to support them to move beyond some of the divisions of our society and prepare for the future. "

John Peto, Nerve Centre

Teaching Divided Histories aimed to challenge teachers to be more creative in teaching contentious aspects of history. To this end, a teacher training programme, with supporting resources, was designed offering innovative ways of engaging pupils in the study of conflict.

The project then trained a core group of 25 post-primary teachers from schools across Northern Ireland and the border counties in Ireland. It also provided them with in-class support as they delivered a digital media programme to pupils, encompassing film, photography, animation, comic books and webcasting.

Overcoming concerns

An initial analysis was performed to assess training needs of teachers of various subjects including history, citizenship, English, ICT, art and music, as well as those involved in cross-curricular programmes. The training gave them the skills and confidence to overcome their concerns about dealing with the past and enabled them to pass on their new expertise to colleagues. As a result, 102 teachers enhanced their skills as regards exploring contentious history in the classroom and 86 now use these skills to improve understanding of the past and the interdependence of all of Ireland’s communities.

This was complemented by the creation of online learning resources, digital media content and guidance materials. They are accessible for all teachers interested in creative approaches to conflict education across a range of curriculum areas and supported by digital learning guidance and exemplars.

As for pupils, the introduction of educational methods based on new technologies removed barriers to engagement with history, helping them to explore conflict, peace building and their shared experience of them. A total of 2 400 pupils from the 25 participating schools followed an in-class programme about past and present community relationships. Some 730 of them met to share ideas at screenings of films and digital media work which they had produced under the programme, while 1 800 enrolled on courses in creative subjects or ICT after their participation.

Showcasing the method

Following evaluation of its approaches, Teaching Divided Histories generated a body of research into and evidence of their impact and worked to see how they might be mainstreamed into curricula throughout Northern Ireland and Ireland. It also developed new modular content for use in school subjects on both sides of the border.

Video case studies on the work of the teachers captured the methods in action and were disseminated online to give insight into how they can improve teaching. Cross-border synergies and international partnerships with other post-conflict regions – including projects with schools in Lebanon, India and Sri Lanka – and sharing of experience between educators, policy makers and curriculum planners at seminars also raised awareness.

Through an ongoing partnership with the British Council over 100 teachers in Lebanon and 120 in India have been trained and are delivering elements of the Teaching Divided Histories programme in their countries.

This outreach work was supported by an international conference held in Derry as part of its 2013 UK City of Culture programme, which provided a further opportunity to showcase the work to a global audience.

Further information:

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Teaching Divided Histories” is EUR 527 844, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 356 523 through the PEACE III Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


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