Simulations as tools for teaching historical agency: A case study in Finland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


In contrast to American students who frequently learn about the impact that individuals have on historical events, young Finns are taught history through a structuralist lens. Consequently they develop interpretations of history that emphasize social, political, and cultural structures at the expense of individual action to explain change in the world. Rather than understanding individual subjects as major historical agents, they instead tend to see an individual’s influence on historical change as very small. Consequently, they may themselves diminish their own agency to influence events in the present. This belief may be related to their weak interest in political and social issues. If, for example, youth who study history acknowledge historical events as a consequence brought about by individuals or groups of people—not as the result of the changing of structures—they might be more likely to see themselves as responsible agents of change in their own time. With the help of an historical simulation, students can develop a better first-hand understanding of historical actors, giving them an opportunity to interpret historical events and change from an individual perspective rather than through the structure characteristic of history textbooks. In this chapter, the author discusses the benefits of simulations, particularly in regard to developing adolescents’ historical empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMore Like Life Itself : Simulations as Powerful and Purposeful Social Studies
EditorsCory Wright-Maley
Number of pages18
Place of PublicationCharlotte, NC
PublisherInformation Age Publishing Inc.
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)978-1-64113-320-3 , 978-1-64113-321-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-64113-322-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameTeaching and learning social studies

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences

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