Teachers’ organization of world history in South Korea: Challenges and opportunities for curriculum and practice

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2 Scopus citations


Once focused primarily on European and Chinese history, South Korea's world history courses are moving toward a global approach that spans multiple regions. In the midst of this curricular shift, we examined how Korean teachers conceptualize world history for themselves and for their instruction. We interviewed eight Korean teachers using card-sorting tasks and a think aloud methodology. Findings revealed that all participants sorted the cards differently when considering instruction compared to when they sorted cards for their own understanding, suggesting the role of teachers as instructional gatekeepers even in a country with a centralized National Curriculum. The Korean teachers discussed three instructional challenges in making these changes: connecting world historical events to students’ present lives, unpacking for students events that spanned across large amounts of time and space, and managing students’ preconceived notions or attitudes about different cultures. The ways in which participants dealt with these challenges differed. Additionally, in-service teachers made more complex connections between events and focused less on regions than did pre-service teachers. We discuss the cultural tools that Korean participants used in making instructional decisions as well as implications for curriculum development and teacher education for world history in South Korea and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-354
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Studies Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Curriculum
  • In-service teachers
  • Pre-service teachers
  • South Korea
  • World history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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