Teaching historical literacy outside the box (Mikkonen)

Teaching historical literacy outside the box (Mikkonen)

This HisLit sub-project is based at the Department of History and Ethnology (JYU) and is led by Simo Mikkonen.

For us, historical knowledge is not memorization of years and names, but critical thinking, understanding of cause and consequence, ability to empathize with people of the past, and comprehending of temporality. In addition, history is strongly linguistic discipline requiring ability to analyze, interpret and produce different texts and representations.

In this sub-project, we examine the ability of Finnish students to analyze historical texts, and proficiency to produce valid interpretations based on them. We approach these themes by developing inquiry based learning in history. Our interests include historical thinking, historical literacy as well as conceptions and meaning of history. In addition to studying how to improve students’ historical literacy and historical thinking, we compile materials for teaching historical literacy.


Simo Mikkonen is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow (20014-2019) and Adjunct Professor of Russian history at the Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä. In his PhD thesis (2007) Mikkonen examined Soviet cultural politics. Since, he has specialized in transnational history and cultural networks between Eastern and Western Europe. More recently, he has investigated historical thinking and pedagogy of history at university level. Previously Mikkonen has acted as an instructor at the Adult Educators Pedagogical Studies and has been the pedagogical head of the department.


Matti Rautiainen is a Senior Lecturer of history and social sciences and Head of the Department of Teacher Education. Rautiainen is also Adjunct Professor of education of history and social studies. He is a member of several research projects examining pedagogy and teacher development, aiming at changing educational culture and pedagogical practices for better schools and learning environments. In learning and teaching of history, Rautiainen has paid particular attention on the development of problem-based learning and the nature of historical knowledge. He is also an author of fiction, particularly crime novels.


Anna Veijola is a teacher trainer and teacher of history and social sciences. Her current position is at the Jyväskylä Teacher Training School (Jyväskylän normaalikoulu). She has been a teacher of history and social sciences since 2002. She has also worked for many years as a University Teacher teaching pedagogy of history at the Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä. In her PhD thesis (2013) she examined development of teacher trainees’ pedagogical thinking over a four-year period. Currently, she investigates historical thinking and historical literacy of students in primary and secondary education, as well as develops methods for improved teaching of critical thinking skills.


Doctoral students

Ida Vesterinen 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 Historical thinking amongst 13-16-year-old Finnish students.