The Project

This exploratory research project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) ‘Care for the Future’ Exploratory Award. It seeks to gain greater understanding of the link between education and the way in which the First World War is perceived and commemorated at the point of its centenary anniversary. The project is about examining how the war is taught and remembered in the present, to allow us to consider its future relevance to national consciousness and cultural memory as an event that can bridge the generational divide through its abiding interest. More specifically, our objectives are:

  • To explore the ways in which the First World War, as a topic relevant to both History and English Literature, is taught in English secondary schools in both subject areas, particularly to from Years 9-12.
  • To understand the ways in which the teaching of the First World War contributes to the formation of a specific cultural memory of the war and a literary canon that emphasises a select group of poet ‘truth speakers’ above all other witness testimony of the war.
  • To consult with teachers, academics and educational policy-makers via a symposium, questionnaires and focus-groups to ensure we fully understand what is already happening in secondary school classrooms. This involves exploring how teachers and academics feel about teaching the subject and what their experiences have been.
  • To create a dialogue between schools, universities and professional organisations.
  • To develop lasting outputs, such as an interactive website, which encourage continued dialogue between secondary and university level teachers.
  • To conduct a survey, the findings of which can be compiled into a comprehensive report into ‘Teaching About the First World War’.
  • To be in a position to start making recommendations to national level curriculum setters and exam boards about the way the subject is taught and the content coverage in History and English Literature.

The Survey

What is the survey about?

Our survey for teachers of History and English Literature is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their “Care for the Future” research theme. It aims to establish a clearer picture of the way the First World War is currently taught about in England’s secondary schools and further education colleges. We want to hear about teachers’ experience with this subject in order to identify possible challenges and opportunities. The survey will also be used to inform the nature and content of the Institute of Education’s WW1 Centenary Battlefield Tours Project which aims to provide the opportunity for a minimum of two pupils and one teacher from every state funded secondary school in England to visit battlefields on the Western Front starting in 2014.

Why should I take part in the survey?

Are you interested in finding out what other teachers are doing in their classrooms? Would you like your own experience to inform others’ practice and understanding? The results from this survey will be used to establish an on-going and mutually beneficial dialogue between teachers and researchers interested in First World War literature and history. Your input will work towards improving communication and understanding between sectors and subjects and will enable us to create and provide linked access to resources and ideas via our project website. In addition, the results will feed directly into the planning and development of the Institute of Education’s First World War Centenary Battlefield Tour CPD programme providing through identifying the specific issues and challenges experienced by teachers when teaching about this subject and participating in battlefield tours.

How will the survey contribute to research?

Our research will be based on this online questionnaire, on regional focus group meetings, and an extensive survey of press coverage, literary writing and documentaries in the run-up to the 2014 centenary anniversary of the First World War. We hope to offer suggestions as to how teaching at secondary level contributes to the way the First World War is remembered, and to the formation of a literary ‘canon’ of First World War texts. We also hope to suggest solutions to solve or circumvent current problems teachers encounter in their teaching practice, such as tight limitations on time or materials, by working with survey results and creating an online platform for teachers and researchers teaching First World War literature and history.

Last but not least, the survey will help the IOE to establish a baseline for further research aimed at measuring the impact of the WW1 Centenary Battlefield Tours project on curriculum planning, lesson development and classroom teaching.

Where can I find out more about the survey results?

A summary and critical analysis of the results will be published in the form of a detailed report on the project website and the IOE’s WW1 Centenary Battlefield Tours project website, as well as in two professional journals, Teaching History and The Use of English. We also hope to use and publicise survey results as part of two scholarly articles in academic journals, and we may disseminate a digest of our findings and our subsequent conclusions in the form of academic conference papers.

Can I be involved in the project beyond filling in the questionnaire?

Should you be interested in participating in a follow-up focus group or interview, you will be able to state your contact details at the end of the online survey, or you may contact us directly. There will be a ”’prize draw for one £100 M&S voucher”’ for all participants who choose to leave their contact details.