Using the history classroom as a context for ethics and moral education is a long, but also contested, tradition. Recently, more emphasis has been put on how to incorporate ethics education, with this paper exploring the spaces of ethics and moral education in the history classroom. It is argued here that insights from moral philosophy and theories of historical consciousness, but – importantly – also moral psychology and the study of moral emotions, are needed to realise the potential of history teaching and learning to support ethics education. Following this line, three spaces of ethics education in the history classroom are identified in this paper, including: reasoning about the moral quality of historical actors’ conduct; the use of historical empathy (perspective-taking); and reflection of the past’s moral meaning to the present and the future. As an example of how to implement this, a set of stimulus activities is presented that is designed for the classroom and a qualitative analysis of students’ responses that explicate expressions of students’ moral reasoning, perspective-taking, and historical consciousness.
Ethics and moral questions in the history classroom
History education has a long tradition of presenting to students ethically inspiring narratives for purposes of instruction. The expression, historia magistra vitae (history as the teacher of life), has been used to characterise an approach to the past that underlines the value of history as a repository of role models and examples of morality. In the post-WWII decades in the UK, for example, there was an established critique against using the history classroom as a platform for teaching values and norms because this was thought to compromise the objective of teaching students to analyse historical topics neutrally in following the approach of historians (Peterson 2017, 192–194). Today, however, there is more support for the view that moral values can be present in history teaching and that history teaching should contribute to the realization of equality, human rights, and social justice (Barton and Levstik 2004; Seixas and Morton 2013). A moral turn has taken place also among historians who increasingly acknowledge that it is essential to address moral questions relating to the subject matter of their research. Their (re)constructions of the past are narratives that necessarily and unavoidably include a moral dimension. There is explicit acknowledgement that the choice of a research topic is not value-free. It has been argued that since historical research engages its readers “in a world of moral choice and constraint [also] historians should demand equal time with moral philosophers on the stage of moral narration” (Cotkin 2008, 298). They also can, and should, contribute to the public reflective processing of moral questions that concern people, and do it from the vantage point of their understanding of historical change and continuity.
Moral judgments are present in the history classroom not only explicitly but often implicitly because the choice of perspective and vocabulary may clearly convey moral evaluations. In a recent study of Finnish and Swedish Year 9 students, a majority of the students in both countries answered in the affirmative to the question whether moral questions should be addressed in the history classroom (Löfström et al. 2020). In this study at least, the majority of high school students support including moral elements in history teaching and learning. The presence of the moral element can stimulate students’ discussions on history, as elucidated by Ammert (2015), students engage in more elaborate argumentation on history when the topic involves moral questions or the historical narrative can be framed as a struggle between good and evil, or justice and injustice. A study of Finnish upper secondary school students has shown that even though history teaching has not explicitly trained students to discuss moral questions in the history classroom, students enjoy participating in such discussions and are able to debate the moral meaning of history, when given an opportunity to do so (Löfström 2014).
In order to mobilise the potential of history teaching to support ethics education it is important to look where the intersections of history education and ethics education or moral education are found. This can then result in moral dimensions being openly addressed in the history classroom, rather than remaining uncultivated or ignored—either intentionally or unintentionally. It is argued here that three spaces are available to supporting ethics and moral education in the history classroom. They are not mutually exclusive but can be seen as complementary. One is moral evaluation of historical actors’ conduct (moral-philosophical reasoning); one is the use of historical empathy (perspective-taking); and one is reflection of the past’s moral meaning to the present and the future (historical consciousness). As an example of how the history classroom could be made relevant to ethics and moral education in these three spaces, a set of stimulus activities is presented here which had the purpose of explicating student responses that can be analysed as expressions of moral reasoning, pespective-taking, and historical consciousness. Such an analysis helps teachers identify challenges in developing students’ historical and moral thinking. Moreover, with a set of activities like this, testable hypotheses on students’ expressions of moral reasoning, perspective taking, and historical consciousness can be constructed for the purpose of exploring the intersections of historical consciousness and what is tentatively called here, moral consciousness.
Space for ethics education in history teaching, I: Moral-philosophical reasoning
One opportunity for ethics education in the history classroom is developing students’ skills of reasoning about the ethical dimension in controversial historical topics. In literature on how to teach controversial history, refining students’ skills of critical and constructive reasoning and argumentation is posited as the central objective. It is argued, students should learn to deal constructively with diverse and opposing historical interpretations and to analyse contested historical issues from multiple perspectives, like historians (see, for example, Foster 2014). Even though refining students’ skills of moral reasoning is not the primary aim of teaching controversial history, teaching controversial historical topics and events aims to promote certain values by supporting students’ democratic dispositions, like tolerance and open-mindedness (Misco 2011). Discussions on values and moral judgments can not reasonably be detached from teaching controversial history (Edling et al. 2020). Moreover, controversial history is often painful history in that it triggers responses that evoke moral emotions, like empathy, guilt, or shame. The topic of slavery and how to deal with its legacy is an example of such history (Savenije et al. 2014).
As history teachers may not have special knowledge in ethics or moral philosophy, they may have difficulty processing the moral aspect in topics of controversial history. A systematic use of the concepts and perspectives of moral philosophy would be useful, as for example suggested by Milligan, Gibson, and Peck (2018). Enriching students’ ethical reasoning with the help of concepts and theories of moral philosophy would provide students with better tools to discuss moral dilemmas and, very importantly, help them keep the focus more on the process, rather than the outcome of moral judgment-making when discussing historical – and also contemporary – moral dilemmas.
This seems like a promising strategy in developing students’ ability in moral reasoning and moral judgment-making in the history classroom. Depending on what theories of ethics are chosen as the conceptual framework, different questions in what concerns the controversial topic may be placed in focus (Edling et al. 2020). In addition to finding ways of refining students’ conceptual resources in the moral-philosophical analysis of moral dilemmas, it is important for the teacher to consider how people respond to moral dilemmas, and to design pedagogical solutions with this in mind. How people respond to moral dilemmas is a central topic in the psychology of moral thinking, but so far it has been little explored in the studies of teaching and learning of history (as exceptions see Martens et al. 2009; Psaltis et al. 2017). This brings us to another space of ethics education in the history classroom.
Space for ethics education in history teaching, II: Perspective-taking
In the studies of history education, historical empathy is understood as the ability to construct a context for the historical event that makes it possible to understand and explain the actions of those involved in that event (Retz 2018). It is often characterized as putting oneself in the shoes of historical actors and re-enacting their thoughts in the given situation (Lee and Ashby 2001). This entails paying attention to the historical actor’s social and cultural milieu, worldview, and material conditions; and on that basis understanding the available choices of action and their consequences to the actor and the concerned parties in the given historical situation. It is not free imagination where the historical circumstances are marginally considered, like in a task where a primary school student might be told, Imagine you are a Roman soldier fighting in Caesar’s army and you are about to engage in battle. Write a letter to your mother telling her how you feel. From a psychological point of view it is a question of perspective-taking, and some researchers have used the concept of historical perspective-taking rather than historical empathy, when speaking of the skill to make comprehensible the actions of a historical actor by constructing their social and cultural context (see, for example, Hartmann and Hasselhorn 2008; see also Gehlbach 2004).
The question if historical perspective-taking and historical empathy should also include an affective-emotional element has been controversial among researchers. Considering that the ideal situation in perspective-taking is to understand historical actors’ motives and intentions as well as possible, it is justified that the emotional-affective element of people’s motivation is taken into account. Endacott and Brooks have argued that one can not speak of ‘historical empathy’ if the effects of fear, love, hate, pride, and other emotions on people’s decision-making are ignored (Endacott and Brooks 2018, 210). Some perspective-taking tasks may trigger more cognition-based, others more affect-based perspective-taking. Interestingly, it has been found that when an affective element is combined with an element of historical contextualization in a historical perspective-taking task, students may reach more elaborate levels of perspective-taking (Huijgen ym. 2017). Thus, the encounter between a cognition-based and an affect-based response may be particularly potent and fruitful in supporting the students’ meaning-making reflections in the context of history teaching and learning.
Historical perspective-taking also includes considering historical actors’ moral reasoning and moral motivations. This entails paying attention to moral emotions that have an important role in moral judgment-making and, thus, should be considered also in ethics and moral education (ten Have 2020). For example, people mobilise their ability to empathize when they interpret a situation’s moral dimension, and before they proceed to moral reasoning (Pizarro 2000; Hoffman 2000; Myyry 2003). It has been suggested that in moral education developing student’s moral sensitivity, rather than moral reasoning, should be the primary goal (Jagger 2011). In Rest’s (1986) influential theory of moral behaviour, moral sensitivity is the ability to perceive the moral dimension in a situation and the available choices of action and their consequences for those concerned (Bebeau et al. 1999). It requires perspective-taking skills and empathy which presupposes openness to moral emotions. This parallels historical perspective-taking described by Huijgen et al. (2017) where historical contextualisation (cognition-based perspective-taking) combines with openness to the affective elements of a historical situation (affect-based perspective-taking), resulting in more elaborate perspective-taking by students.
Space for ethics education by history teaching, III: Historical consciousness
One of the central concepts in the north-European and, more recently, Anglophone history education theories is historical consciousness. It refers to the ability to construct meaningful links between the past, the present, and the future. In a seminal text by Jeismann (1979) it was suggested that historical consciousness consists of interpretations of the past, understanding of the present, and expectations of the future. The pasts and presents may be major historic events but also everyday-life experiences. Connecting ‘high’ and ‘low’ history such narratives of historical change and continuity show that people can both change history and be changed by history (Edling et al. 2020).
Historical consciousness can be seen as the competence to create narratives of interrelations of the past, the present and the future, and this narrative competence can develop as suggested by influential theorist of historical consciousness, Jörn Rüsen (2004). He constructed a typology of four narrative types – traditionalist, exemplary, critical and genetic– that can be considered to form a hierarchy of complexity of the structure in the narratives used in making sense of connections between the past, the present, and the future (Rüsen 2004). It is a tool for distinguishing between patterns of temporal orientation in the historical narratives people construct. It has been asked whether Rüsen’s notion of historical consciousness takes into account skills to use metahistorical concepts, such as evidence, and distinguish between more and less plausible historical explanations are also relevant to consider in the context of narrative competence (Lee 2004). It amounts to saying historical consciousness is also about understanding historical epistemology (cf. Waldis et al. 2015).
Historical consciousness can be analysed as a developmental-psychological question (Kölbl 2009). Rüsen himself has acknowledged the parallel between his four types of historical consciousness and Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral judgment, and theorising on the types of manifesting historical consciousness he has also wanted to outline the relationship between the narrative types and moral values. Between the narrative types there is a hierarchy of complexity of moral argument so that, for example, in the traditional narratives, values are seen in terms of moral obligation, but in the genetic narratives the notion is that the validity of moral values depends on recognizing society’s transformations in time, and reinterpreting the criteria of moral good thereafter (Rüsen 2004). Thus, in the history classroom the aim could be to support students’ reflections on moral meanings of the past through to the present and on to the future, and to facilitate greater complexity of moral argument in them. The connection between historical consciousness and ethics and the processes of moral judgment-making remains relatively unexplored. However, there are different perspectives on it in history education theory, and an identified need for empirical studies to be conducted in this area (Ammert et al. 2017; Edling et al. 2020).
Preparing opportunities for ethics education in the history classroom
Drawing from the previous sections it is argued here that the focus in the stimulus activities provided to students aimed to support ethics education in the history classroom can be set in terms of the following questions and perspectives tropes:
On what grounds could a moral judgment be justified of the conduct of a historical person in a given historical situation? (moral reasoning);
How is the conduct of a historical person in the given situation contextualised and explained, and how is his/her moral motivation and available choices of action and their consequences to contemporaries perceived? (perspective-taking and moral sensitivity); and
What narratives are constructed about connections between the past, the present and the future, and what moral meanings are attached to them? (historical consciousness and its moral dimension).
Milligan et al. (2018) have provided an example of how to enrich students’ ethical reasoning in history teaching. The case in their example is the ship MS St. Louis that carried mainly Jewish refugees from Europe in 1939, but was refused landing in Canada, the US, and Cuba. The ships returned to Europe where some countries finally allowed the refugees to enter. During WWII many former MS St. Louis passangers perished when Germany occupied their asylum country. In their paper, Milligan et al. (2018) have suggested questions that can be posed in the history classroom. For example, they include: ‘How should we decide who was morally responsible for the lives of the Jewish refugees?’; ‘What kinds of ethical arguments did individuals and governments use to justify their response to the MS St. Louis incident?’; and ‘Can the Cuban, American, or Canadian governments be morally responsible for their actions, but not to blame?’ (Milligan et al. 2018, pp. 17, 19). Questions like these focus on moral reasoning and ethical theories. Some other questions relate to connections between the past, the present, and the future that are central in historical consciousness. Such questions include, for example: ‘What are the continuities and changes between the ethical arguments used by governments to justify their decisions in the MS St. Louis case and the arguments used by governments to justify their decisions in the current European refugee crisis?’, and ‘Given the MS St. Louis case, how should governments respond to refugee crises today?’ In processing the questions, students are expected to use the provided context information and their background and/or context knowledge to build the political, social, and cultural context of the case MS St. Louis, so as to better understand the situation where the contemporaries acted (Milligan et al. 2018, pp 5–6).
The list of questions suggested by Milligan et al. (2018) reflects the authors’ interest in the development of students’ reasoning on ethical problems. It is argued here that if we also want to understand students’ response to cases like MS St. Louis and their moral judgment-making, these questions posed by Milligan et al. (2018) are not sufficient. Moral judgment-making includes also perspective-taking and affective-emotional response (Hoffman 2000; Pizarro 2000; ten Have 2020). Thus for the purpose of helping students reflect on their own moral judgment-making more deeply, they need to be asked to engage in perspective-taking, or historical empathy, in such a way that the role of affect-based response and moral emotions is also considered.
As broached earlier, there have been reservations about the element of emotion in historical empathy. Some researchers have used the terms ‘historical contextualization’ or ‘perspective construction’ rather than ‘historical empathy’ (VanSledright 2001; Wilschut and Schiphorst 2019). However, considering the role of emotion in decision-making, emotions must not be ignored in historical empathy (Endacott and Brooks 2018). Historical perspective-taking tasks may trigger affect-based or cognition-based perspective-taking. As mentioned, in a historical perspective-taking task where an affective element is combined with historical contextualization, students have shown more elaborate perspective-taking (Huijgen et al. 2017). Thus, affective elements in historical perspective-taking tasks are not necessarily incompatible with students constructing reasonably well contextualised historical interpretation. From the point of ethics education, affect-based perspective-taking is relevant as it connects with moral emotions and empathy skills. The objective in historical perspective-taking tasks with a moral dimension is not that students come up with one ‘correct’ answer but that they engage in constructing and weighing historically plausible interpretations and ethical arguments and reflecting their own moral responses to the perspective-taking task, including their moral emotions.
In the following sections of this paper, a concrete example is given of how the afore mentioned elements have been operationalized, explained as a way to demonstrate how this could be taken on board in a set of activities designed for the history classroom.
A case to process in the classroom: The massacre in the village of Josefow, 1942
The focus of the historical case in the set of activities provided to student participants to complete is an event that took place in Josefow, Poland during WW II and has been described by historian Christopher Browning in his book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Browning 2017). The book reports the operations of a German reserve police unit in Poland, 1942–43. The section used in the set of activities describes the preparations of the first direct involvement of the unit in the Holocaust. The Battalion Commander, Major Trapp, received an ordered to destroy the village of Josefow that had a majority Jewish population. Before they were openly informed of their orders, some of the men in the Battalion anticipated the nature of the coming task and reacted to it in different ways. Having arrived at the village Major Trapp explained the order to his men and then asked the ‘elderly [police]men’ who ‘did not feel up to the task’ to step out of the line. First one man, Otto-Julius Schimke, did so. He was berated for this by his Company Leader, Captain Hoffmann, but Major Trapp silenced the Captain. Then also some other men, a dozen in total, stepped out of the line. Major Trapp gave his orders: some units would stand watch around the village; some would search the houses and bring inhabitants to the village square; some would escort adult male inhabitants to a camp in a nearby city; and some would take women, children, and the elderly to a nearby forest where other units would execute them. Those who had refused to participate were not punished and were assigned alternative tasks (Browning 2017, pp. 55–57).
This particular case has been used in studies that have focused on young people’s historical perspective-taking or moral reflections on the past (Ammert 2015, 2017; Nilsen 2016), but here these two foci are both present. As is obvious to any historian or history education, the Holocaust offers great depth and breadth of material for history education and ethics education, and it is a topic that can be expected to be familiar to many students across the world because in many countries it is a core or compulsory component of the history curriculum (Carrier et al. 2015). It is also the topic of innumerable products of history culture, like films and TV-series. Thus, students can be expected that in a case like the afore mentioned MS St. Louis, or the massacre in Josefow, to only need little extra background information because the wider context, the Holocaust, is likely to be familiar. This can be an advantage in the classroom where the historical context in the set of activities may have to be constructed in a short time.
The description of the Josefow massacre is particularly interesting for a task where students are asked to contextualise, take perspective, and reflect on moral questions, because it is more nuanced than the stereotypic image of German perpetrators of the Holocaust that may often exist in the products of history culture. The policemen—noting they are not professional or volunteer soldiers—in Josefow were presented with a moral dilemma, and in the set of activities (detailed below) the focus is more on reflecting on the perpetrators’, rather than the victims’, situation. This can pose extra challenges to students since it has been found to be more difficult to identify with perpetrators than victims in a perspective-taking task (Nilsen 2016).
The set of activities was designed initially as an instrument for researching expressions of historical consciousness and ‘moral consciousness’ (see Ammert et al. 2017) and their intersections in student response to the description of the Josefow massacre. But it can also be used in the history classroom as a teaching instrument. As in research interviews, students can be asked to first read the description and then respond to the questions in the set activities. In the research, it took the students usually 30–35 min to complete the task, but in a teaching situation time management can obviously look different class to class. The students participating in the research had studied the Holocaust as part of their history course one year prior to the interviews. The text used as prompt material follows the text in Browning’s book (Browning 2017, 55–57) but was edited so that students would not be distracted by technical details of the original text. It was decided this kind of student activity should not focus on students’ reading comprehension skills but on the competences that are the focus of the activities, like in this case perspective-taking and moral argumentation skills and narrative competence (Huijgen et al. 2017, 133).
Activities to stimulate student’s moral reasoning, perspective-taking and historical consciousness
After reading the provided extract, students were requested to complete a set of activities that consisted of eight open-ended questions and can be grouped according to what concept is primarily focused upon. The concepts are moral reasoning and historical contextualisation, perspective-taking and moral sensitivity, historical consciousness and narrative competence, and ethics in historical knowledge. The rationale of each question and how they fit with notions of historical consciousness and moral consciousness are detailed in Table 1.
In question 1 students are asked to explain and judge Major Trapp’s conduct. The first part connects with skills of historical contextualization which is the cognitive level of historical perspective-taking. How well students can construct plausible motives and intentions that Major Trapp had, depends on their knowledge of the context of the situation, including the moral norms in the society where Major Trapp lived. Students’ answers can be assessed, for example, according to a typology of historical understanding like the one by Ashby and Lee (2001), that ranges from a highly contextualised historical interpretation, to an interpretation where the people of the past are irrational or their conduct is explained only with stereotypic models or through projections of present concerns on the past. The second part connects with skills of moral judgment-making. Students’ answers can be typologised, for example, using models like Kohlberg’s (1984) or Rest’s (Rest et al. 1999) where the central concern is difference between arguments referring to personal interest, maintaining norms, and ethical principles. As suggested by Milligan et al. (2018), the philosophical study of ethics can provide tools for students’ moral judgment, and their judgments of Major Trapp may include utilitarian, deontological, care ethical, or virtue ethical arguments, for example (see Edling et al. 2020). In the research, moral judgment-making occurred in the main in response to question 1 and sporadically in answers to other questions.
In questions 2 and 3, students are asked to take a perspective and put themselves in the position of a specified historical actor. Students’ answers are differentiated by the level of perspective-taking that they reflect. At the lowest level there is effectively no perspective-taking, at the second and third level, following Hoffman (2000), students construct their own imagined response or the response of an imagined other. For example, in the latter case in question 2, students can recognise a situation where a police officer would feel relief for not having to shoot anyone but would feel sorry for the comrades who have to carry out the order. Questions 2 and 3 are formulated, ‘Imagine you had been…’, and, ‘…if you had been…’, so as to signal that also more affect-based subjective response is permitted. In the research interviews the responses to question 2 and 3 showed more often affect-based perspective-taking and less often cognitive perspective-taking than the responses to question 1, as was also expected. Questions 2 and 3 are more about moral sensitivity than question 1. Perspective-taking is central in the moral sensitivity component of Rest’s (1986) model of moral behaviour, moral sensitivity being awareness of different parties’ position in a given situation, their available options of action, and the likely consequences of choosing different actions. In addition to perspective-taking, it includes feeling moral emotions, like empathy and compassion (Löfström and Myyry 2017; ten Have 2020).
In questions 4, 5, and 6 students are asked to reflect on meaningful connections between the past, the present, and the future which is central to historical consciousness. In question 4, the focus is on similarities and differences between present time and WWII in Europe. How much do the past and the present share qualities that in the future could generate similar outcomes as those described in the text? The themes of continuity and discontinuity are also addressed in question 5: what insights or lessons, if any, could be drawn from the past, either at a personal or collective level? In question 6, a different angle is taken, asking students to interact with the narrative and the context and to suggest what additional information would make this description of the past more meaningful or more relevant to them. Central to these questions is what kind of narrative about the relationship between the past, the present, and the future is constructed in the students’ answers. In Rüsen’s (2004) typology of narratives, traditional, exemplary, critical, and genetic narratives reflect each a particular kind of view of the interconnections between the past, the present, and the future, and what is valuable in the past to keep alive, and why.
In questions 7 and 8 the student is asked to give a justified opinion on whether knowledge in history allows moral judgment-making on the past, and whether moral questions should be part of learning history. These questions can be considered to concern metahistorical skills that Lee (2004, 140–143) has argued are central to historical consciousness. They concern the nature of historical knowledge, compared to the nature of knowledge about moral good and evil, right and wrong. Are these knowledges similar or different in kind, and how? Likewise, is teaching history essentially different from, compatible with, or intertwined with teaching ethics, in terms of epistemological and educational dimensions? Of primary interest here is the complexity and richness of the justifications in how teaching and learning history and ethics are explained to have different or similar premises and produce different or similar outcomes.
Towards integrating theoretical models in history and ethics education
This paper has aimed to provide theoretical perspectives and a concrete example, in the form of a designed set of activities, of how ethics education can be present in the history classroom. It has focused on three spaces where questions relevant to ethics education can be addressed in history teaching: moral-philosophical reasoning when evaluating historical actors’ conduct; perspective-taking through the use of historical empathy; and historical consciousness when reflecting on the past’s meaning to the present and the future.
The designed set of activities presented in this paper is meant to serve as an insight and as a model for pedagogical solutions that focus on opportunities to ethics education in the history classroom. Qualitative differences in students’ response to these activities can be interpreted as expressions of differences in levels in moral-philosophical reasoning, perspective-taking, and historical consciousness. Theoretical models and typologies – for example by Rüsen (2004), Ashby and Lee (2001), Kohlberg (1984)– are available that can be used in analysis of students’ expressions for the purpose of identifying if it is their skill of moral-philosophical reasoning, perspective-taking, or historical consciousness (narrative competence) that has the greatest need to be further developed.
Teachers may have limited time resources to study closely the patterns in students’ cognitive and affective-emotional response to the set of activities. It is, however, possible to study such patterns and, importantly, to test hypotheses based on theoretical premises. For example, in a study on Finnish students answering this set of activities it was hypothesised that the level of cognitive and affective perspective-taking in answers to questions 1 and 2 (see Table 1) would correlate with the level of complexity in how the history subject and moral judgment are understood in answers to question 8 (see Table 1). However, when analysing students’ responses, it was found the correlation was weak. It may be that because question 8 was at the end of the set of activities, not all students had the time or inclination to answer it as thoroughly as they answered questions 1 and 2 in the beginning of the set. Also, when answering question 1 and (in particular) question 2, students could show a higher level of affective perspective-taking (sympathising with the historical actor) but a low level of cognitive perspective-taking (historical contextualisation), the latter suggesting a conception of school subject history that is less open to problematizing the nature of historical knowlewdge, including its relation with ethics (Silfver-Kuhalampi et al. 2020).
In order to promote the objectives of history and ethics education in the classroom, the teacher needs to be able to distinguish between qualitatively different responses from the students to activities like those presented in this paper. The level of complexity in how students express their perception of a historical actor’s situation, their own perspective-taking, moral reasoning, and narrative constructions, can also vary according to their language competences, not only competences of dealing with history. The features in students’ response that are relevant for ethics education are:
expressions of moral reasoning and the principles of ethical justification in the reasoning;
expressions of historical perspective-taking (historical empathy), including cognition-based (contextualisation) and affect-based (sympathy and other moral emotions) response;
expressions of historical consciousness in how connections between the past, the present, and the future are perceived and used in narratives that convey a statement about the moral meaning of these temporal interconnections; and
expressions of understanding of the nature of historical knowledge.
The set of activities presented in this paper can be regarded as an instrument for pedagogical purposes but also for mapping the diversity of students’ expressions of historical and moral consciousness; moral consciousness being here a shorthand definition for the dimension in students’ response where moral reasoning and moral sensitivity are present (Ammert et al. 2017; Löfström and Myyry 2017). Moreover, patterns in students’ response to activities can also be analysed and hypotheses on connections between expressions of different levels of moral reasoning, perspective-taking, and historical consciousness (narrative comptence) can be made. The aim here is, at the level of theory construction, to contribute to an integrated model of historical and moral consciousness.
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Open access funding provided by Linnaeus University. Research for the paper has been funded by the Swedish Research Council.
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Löfström, J., Ammert, N., Edling, S. et al. Advances in ethics education in the history classroom: after intersections of moral and historical consciousness. International Journal of Ethics Education 6, 239–252 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40889-020-00116-w
- Ethics education
- Moral education
- History teaching
- Historical consciousness
- Moral consciousness