Abstract 5-Volume 8-Number 1, Spring 2013

Analyzing Historical Photographs to Promote Civic Competence

Cory Callahan

University of North Carolina Wilmington


Students in all content areas are almost exclusively presented with text-based instruction that starkly contrasts their experiences outside a classroom. With the advent of sophisticated technologies unknown to earlier generations, modern students are evermore immersed in visual data such as photographs, videos, games, apps. Visual media comprise many of the resources that adolescents use to negotiate understandings of the world. Many teachers and teacher-educators suggest that civic competence requires meeting powerful media with equally powerful analysis tools. In this, the first of two coupled articles — the second to be published in the July issue of Social Studies Research and Practice — I describe the educative potential of employing visual documents, especially historical photographs, in social studies instruction and refer to implications drawn from recent research studies. I also introduce an original lesson demonstrating wise practice teaching strategies for implementing historical photographs in classroom instruction to promote students’ civic competence. The second coupled article will extend the wise practice teaching strategies and feature all of the resources needed to enact the lesson and provide closure to the ideas posited throughout both articles.

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