Sparking the historical imagination: Strategies for teaching Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology
Roger Smith (2000) has written, ‘The historical imagination, surely, connotes many things... High on my list is the imagination to believe that our lives, experience, and knowledge... do not circumscribe what it is possible to live, experience, or know.’ In the spirit of cultivating our students’ ‘historical imagination,’ we introduce a number of activities and assignments that can be used both within the history of psychology course and across the psychology curriculum. We focus specifically on the novel ways disciplinary knowledge can be contextualised to equip students to question the universality and essentialism with which they are typically confronted in their psychology training. These strategies are a means of rendering psychology, past and present, both more personally meaningful and socially relevant to students. The examples provided are based on our experiences developing and implementing the history of psychology course at two large, public, urban universities in Canada over the past 10 years. They are informed by this multicultural milieu, as well as by our own orientations as feminist/gender historians. We include examples of imaginative classroom activities (‘The Case of Country X’ and ‘Speed Dating with a Psychologist’) and course assignments (‘Internationalising Psychology,’ ‘Imagined Conversations’, and ‘Graphic Novels’). In as much as we describe specific ways to engage students’ historical imagination, we also seek to spark the imagination of instructors to create their own exercises inspired by these examples.