Teachers’ Use of Film in the History Classroom

A Survey of 19 High School Teachers in Norway


  • David-Alexandre Wagner Future-Pasts Group, Universitetet i Stavanger




This article explores the use of films by Norwegian high school teachers in history classes. Empirical data was collected through audio recordings of semi-structured interviews with 19 history teachers from the same urban area in Norway. The article addresses five main questions: To what extent, and how frequently, did they use films in the history classroom? What kind of films and which films did they use? For what purposes? How did they use films? Which challenges did they encounter? Apart from demonstrating a high level of commitment and enthusiasm, our study shows that the teachers’ use of history films was frequent, purposeful and aware of time constraints. Although the teachers used both feature films and documentaries, they had a clear preference for documentaries. They used films for three main reasons: to illustrate content subject matter through an audio-visual resource, for variation, and to enhance empathy. In class, films were more widely used to support the content of lessons or textbooks rather than to promote high-order-thinking competencies. Finally, the informants singled out two major challenges: the lack of time and problems related to the selection of films and, interestingly, some uncertainty about the effect of films on the students’ motivation. All these aspects seem to demonstrate that many teachers are bound by a scientific use of historical films. They would like films to give a “truthful” image of the past rather than considering history films as an interpretation of the past that can or should be questioned.