Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions of the Pedagogical Function of Heroes and Hero Stories

  •  Kenneth V. Anthony    
  •  Melissa Baneck    


Teachers serve as gatekeepers to the implementation of curriculum in their classroom (Thornton, 2005). Their beliefs about a topic and the wider political environment can influence what they teach. To this end, our goal was to investigate whom preservice teachers identify as heroes and why, which heroes should be included in the curriculum, and how this might influence instruction of the NCSS theme Individual Development and Identity. This study was an exploratory study using the qualitative methods of an open-ended survey and focus group. We were guided by the research question: How do preservice elementary teachers conceptualize heroes? The participants were elementary preservice teachers in their final semester prior to teacher internship. We surveyed participants to determine their perceptions of heroes. We conducted a follow up focus group with five participants. The participants conceptualized heroes as serving a pedagogical function. We learned that these preservice teachers had a balanced concept of heroes and considered heroes valuable to the school curriculum. They saw heroes as role models for students to imitate. Of interest to the study of heroes in the social studies curriculum, these preservice teachers were able to overcome the barrier of the flawed hero. Rather than shifting away from teaching heroes and focusing on heroic actions as Barton and Levstik (2004) recommend, they were able to keep the curricular gate open (Thornton, 2005) to teaching heroes by developing the concept of the gray hero.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.