Historical literacy and contradictory evidence in a Finnish high school setting: The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn

Anna Veijola, Simo Mikkonen


This article revolves around three key issues. Firstly, Finnish national core curriculum fixes the focus of history teaching to students' critical and historical thinking skills and the traditional approach to history teaching as memorizing of facts and chains of events has been changing over the last 30 years. However, the Finnish core curriculum leaves a lot of maneuvering scope for schools and individual teachers and it would seem that teachers still emphasize content over skills with too little focus on historical thinking skills. Secondly, Finland has so far been lacking in research of students' historical thinking skills, even if it has been adopted as an important part of the curriculum. What existing research there is shows that only few students are able to evaluate the information available and make sense of contradictory interpretations of past events. Thirdly, this article reports an experiment that aimed at offering students more opportunities to develop their historical thinking skills and at the same time evaluated their ability for historical thinking. The case chosen was confrontation in Estonia between ethnic Russian and Estonian population around historical interpretations of the so-called Bronze Soldier that led to unrests and violence in Tallinn in 2007. Our research points out that Finnish students have a lot of weaknesses in their text skills. Furthermore, there is a need for research that would examine what kind of interventions change how students learn and how their ability for historical thinking can be improved. It would be equally important to evaluate teachers’ thinking, how they think about history and the way they implement national curriculum.


Historical thinking, Historical literacy, History teaching, Finland, High school students, Critical thinking skills

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Copyright (c) 2016 Anna Veijola, Simo Mikkonen

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