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Apr 24, 2017 12:52 PM EDT

Oral History and How It Makes Learning Less Effective, Study Shows [Video]


Oral history is becoming increasingly popular among schools in countries like the United States, Germany, and more. Eyewitnesses give their own accounts on what happened in the past, encouraging students to be like historians and critically question the sources. However, a new study suggests that hearing the story from eyewitnesses makes students accept the account uncritically, which leads to learning less.

A study by the University of Tübingen published in "American Education Research Journal" claims that students learn less from videos of eyewitness than from a video that shows a transcript of that interview, Science Daily reported. The study observed 900 students coming from 30 different schools in Germany on the topic of "Peaceful Revolution in the GDR" taught through oral history accounts. The students were divided into three groups, where one group worked with the witnesses; the other watched a video recording, while the third group watched the transcript video of the witnesses.

The study found that the students who listened to live witnesses did not meet the standard the teaching unit was aiming for. These students showed less learning on the epistemological principles on the lessons of history. These students didn't have a clearer insight of the eyewitness' special perspective and the necessity of dealing with the accounts critically.

Since the eyewitnesses experienced the events first hand, it would be difficult for the students to detach themselves and have their own objective view of the historical event. University of Konstanz's Christiane Bertram, who is the author of the study, said, "Students got so impressed with the oral accounts of the eyewitness that they overestimate the success of their own learning experience. Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology's Ulrich Trautwein said the study encourages innovative new teaching methods to undergo scientific examination to improve its effectiveness.

One example of oral history is the upcoming "Discovering Your Legacy Through Oral History" event at the Central Texas Genealogical Society, Waco Tribune-Herald reported. The event will have interviewers who will read accounts from "I Remember When... McLennan County Before 1960." The event is supposed to help the attendees develop strategies on interviewing and questioning.

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