Discipline-based teaching, learning, and assessment (Rantala)

Discipline-based teaching, learning, and assessment (Rantala)

This HisLit sub-project is based at the Faculty of Educational Sciences (University of Helsinki) and is led by Jukka Rantala.

In Finland, there seems to be at least two separate issues within history teaching and learning. Firstly, in spite of our discipline-based curriculum, students are learning basically substantive knowledge. An explanation for this can be attributed to how students see the essence of history—perhaps thinking that history is still learned by rote. This could be because of the way in which teachers are teaching. Our purpose is to study how teachers and students see the meaning of history learning and history itself and to produce material for teachers to better teach historical literacy.

The other problem we face is that immigrant students have difficulties in reaching academic secondary education (general upper secondary school/high school). Those students who are studying at the secondary level often have difficulties because of weak Finnish or a different background of historical culture. Our aim is to find out if the problems are mainly language-based, therefore we try to study methods that are beyond the textual ways of teaching and assessing history.


Jukka Rantala is a professor of History and Social Studies Education. His PhD thesis in 1997 dealt with the attempted political purges of Finnish teachers after the Second World War. Rantala has been working as a teacher educator since 1991. In the field of history education, he has carried out research on young Finns’ historical thinking and the historical consciousness of children. In the history of education, his main focus has been on the formation of Finnish teacherhood and the political ethos of Finnish teachers. He has published six scientific monographs in Finnish, treating the topics of consuming history, the historical consciousness of young children, and the political orientation of Finnish teachers, among others. He has been an editor for several academic anthologies. He is also a nonfiction author, having published textbooks and teaching material for comprehensive school and university.

Marko van den Berg is a teacher trainer. His current position is at the Normal Lyceum which is the Teacher Training School at the University of Helsinki. He has also been working continuously as a university lecturer in the Faculty of Educational Sciences. Marko van den Berg finished his PhD in 2007. His post-doctoral scientific interests relate to the historical consciousness of the young people, as well as attitudes of Finnish youth concerning different kinds of social questions. Recently, van den Berg has been studying the command of historical literature among high school students. He has also participated in textbook projects (history and civics) and been an expert in working committees that reformed the history and civics core curricula for comprehensive school. Marko van den Berg has served several times as a Pestalozzi program trainer.

Najat Ouakrim-Soivio is a postdoctoral researcher. She has previously studied the assessment of learning outcomes in history and social studies in secondary schools within Finland, and the validity of grades at the end of secondary schools in Finland. During 2011–2013, the project of assessing the learning outcomes in history and social studies was carried out for the first time. Ouakrim-Soivio was the project manager for this nation-wide assessment. She has acted as an expert during the two previous processes of reforming the Finnish National Core Curricula (2004 and 2014) and was a representative of the Ministry of Education in the Steering Group for National Core Curriculum for basic education (2014).


Mikko Puustinen is a postdoctoral researcher. His research interests include history education, the history of Finnish teacher education as well as the education of subject teachers. In his PhD thesis Puustinen has focused on the disciplinization process of subject teacher education from the 1970s to the 2010s.  He has used rhetorical analysis to examine documents, which have regulated and guided teacher education in Finland. In the HisLit-project, his focus is on observing history teaching, studying teachers’ historical thinking and analyzing texts and assessment tasks, which teachers use in their work.
(Picture Joel Grandell)

Doctoral students

Amna Khawaja is a PhD student whose doctoral thesis will be carried out in collaboration with this research project. The working title of her doctoral thesis is Assessing and Developing Historical Literacy in Basic and Upper Secondary Education in Finland.




Marika Manninen is a PhD student whose doctoral thesis will be carried out in collaboration with this research project. The working title of her doctoral thesis is The Realization of the objectives in the National Core Curriculum related to historical thinking in Basic Education.