This study explores the ways in which teachers’ biographies shape the act of teaching. It illuminates the formative (emotional, private, personal and professional) influences and experiences in teachers’ lives and work. After offering a detailed examination of the most significant ‘players’ (teachers’ educational beliefs, emotional connection and/or emotional knowledge of the subject matter; context and history syllabi) co-performing with the history teacher, the study then specifically focuses on the intersections between teachers’ emotional and personal history; their emotional knowledge and orientation to the subject matter; their pedagogical choices and the contexts ( the type of school and in particular the subject’s locations in that school) within which they teach.
The research is inter-disciplinary and is premised upon theoretical and empirical studies in: teaching history, historical empathy, teaching the Holocaust, biography, modalities of teachers’ knowledge, emotion in education, teachers’ educational beliefs and context. It is a qualitative multiple-case study of 20 teachers working in 15 disparate schools and subject locations.
The qualitative empirical materials gathered for the study have allowed single and cross-case comparisons to be made within the study through examining both the individual and collective meanings that teachers bring to their work. Once this information is interpreted, a clearer picture emerges of what it is that history teachers regard as being most influential in affecting their choice of content or even their orientation to their subject matter.
By discovering the emotional, private and personal dimensions of teachers’ knowledge (an area which has to date been virtually unrecognised and/or acknowledged), this study has not only added to existing knowledge, but it has invited inquiry into a whole new area—second generation emotional knowledge (SGEK). This is a dimension of emotional knowledge that is unique and, as yet, uncharted.