Fostering preservice teachers’ sense of historical agency through the use of nonfiction graphic novels

J. Spencer Clark, Utah State University
Steven P. Camicia, Utah State University


The use of six non-fiction graphic novels to teach historical agency in a social studies methods course was examined in a critical action research study. Pre-service social studies teachers were asked to read one graphic novel and to discuss it with classmates, first in literature circles, then as a whole class. Data revealed graphic novels engaged pre-service teachers in thinking about historical agency, and helped them make connections between historical agency and their own agency. There were three overlapping ways pre-service teachers connected to historical agency in all six graphic novels: upbringing and personal experience, unpredictability of historical situations, and injustice. The findings highlight the value of graphic novels for teaching about historical agency in social studies courses because of their focus on historical agents’ positionality.