This article invites the reader into a fascinating discussion of the significance of history in the formation of professional identities through pedagogical practice and curricular (re)framings. Peseta and her colleagues challenge us to consider what happens when history becomes an absence and how this absence might affect students as they form their sense of professional understanding, knowledge and subjectivity. The authors enable us to consider such ontological questions through the specific context of health professionals in Australia but their reflections are significant for a range of other pedagogical contexts. I found their attention to questions of care particularly fruitful.
Drawing on Shulman (2005), they draw attention to the ways curriculum is often framed through ‘habits of the mind’ or ‘habits of the hand’, driven by the ‘scientific traditions of evidence-based-medicine’ (p. 16). However, they point out that there tends to be less attention to Shulman’s third dimension of ‘habits of the heart’ and the authors raise the question about care for the profession itself, and more specifically, care for the history of the profession. They explain that ‘it is history which shows students that their wrestling with theory-practice tensions are part of the very fabric of the profession: it is history that teaches students why the profession is assembled the way it is; and it is history that reminds students of their responsibilities to participate in shaping the future of the profession’ (p. 18).
Importantly they point to the ways struggles experienced by students are deeply entwined with the ‘epistemological spine of the profession’ (p. 19). The crucial interconnection between providing access to historical context with enabling understanding of the ‘moral basis of the profession’ (p. 22) is made powerfully by the authors. Historical inquiry they argue is not only about supporting students to reflect on and make sense of their personal history in relation to becoming a professional but also developing a capacity to theorise the profession itself, the ways it has come to be and the ethical and moral underpinnings that have shaped that process. This reflection of the significance of history helped me to reflect deeply on my own aspirations of creating pedagogical spaces that provide deep, critical reflexivity and praxis – enabling ongoing critical and participatory consideration of theory-practice-ethics in relation to complex ontological and epistemological reflections.
Shulman, L.S. (2005) Signature Pedagogies in the Professions, Daedalus, 134 (3), 52–59.