Teaching issues perceived to be controversial in history

Estonian teachers’ epistemic cognition





epistemic cognition, history didactics, issues perceived to be controversial


  • Issues perceived to be the most controversial were topics from the 20th century.
  • Teachers’ views on history are often not reflective; epistemic cognition is influenced by epistemic aims and is also topic specific.
  • It is important to concentrate on more complex epistemological interpretation schemata concerning history and learning and the connections between them in teacher training.


Purpose:  The purpose of this study was to discover topics in history education in Estonia that are perceived to be controversial, and to analyse how teachers’ epistemic cognition is reflected in the teaching of issues perceived to be controversial.

Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative research based on group and individual interviews with 12 teachers, plus data from lesson observations among 10 participants.

Findings: Issues perceived to be the most controversial are topics from the 20th century. The reflection of epistemic cognition in practice is a result of a complex interplay between knowledge and knowing related beliefs and processes.

Research limitations: The small number of participants (12). Developed categories must be considered with caution as exploratory findings


Author Biographies

Hanna-Liis Kaarlõp, University of Tallinn

Hanna-Liis Kaarlõp is a Phd student at the School of Educational Sciences and a junior lecturer at the School of Humanities at Tallinn University. Her main research interest is in history didactics and in teaching and learning controversial and sensitive topics.

Mare Oja, Tallinn University

Mare Oja, PhD, has worked as a lecturer in history and history didactics at the School of Humanities, University of Tallinn, since 2004, since 2021 researcher. Her research interests center on civics and history education: curriculum development, assessment, learning environment. Her recent research projects are multiperspectivity in history teaching, widening the scope of the learning environment and the current one is heritage in history education.

Katrin Poom-Valickis, Tallinn University

Katrin Poom-Valickis is a professor of Teacher Education at the School of Educational Sciences at Tallinn University. The main research interest is primarily focused on the teacher’s professional development, more precisely how to support future teachers’ learning and development during their studies and first years of work.


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How to Cite

Kaarlõp, H.-L., Oja, M., & Poom-Valickis, K. (2022). Teaching issues perceived to be controversial in history: Estonian teachers’ epistemic cognition. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.11576/jsse-4450