Fostering Preservice Teachers' Sense of Historical Agency Through the Use of Nonfiction Graphic Novels

S. Clark
Steven P. Camicia, Utah State University


This article discusses a case study that explored the potential of nonfiction graphic novels to develop pre-service teachers' understanding of agency in a social studies methods course. White pre-service teachers were asked to read one graphic novel and then add frames, re-narrate frames, and reflect on their decisions. The positionalities of researchers, who are White males, and participants were part of our analysis. The researchers found that pre-service teachers made revisions to the graphic novels to change the historical actors' decisions: within the constraints of the historical situation's circumstances; to better fit their own ethical framework; and to critique the author's interpretation of the historical event and the amount of agency assigned to certain historical actors. We also reported findings related to shifts in understanding related to positionality. The pre-service teachers' revisions demonstrated their understanding of historical actors' ability to make choices; however, for most pre-service teachers those decisions were limited by, and insignificant in comparison to, the constraints of societal structures. Most pre-service teachers viewed these structures as operating outside of the realm of ethics that they used to articulate and identify agency, and thus, these structures were not responsive to changes in individual or collective agency. Implications are provided for social studies teacher educators.