College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Dr. Mark Helmsing
PhD, Michigan State University
Assistant Professor
History/Social Science, Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning
Secondary Education 6-12

Contact Information

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Phone: (703) 993-2384
Fax: (703) 993-2013
Email: mhelmsin (

Mark Helmsing's website

George Mason University
Fairfax Campus
Thompson Hall 1801
4400 University Dr.
MS 4B3
Fairfax, VA 22030


Dr. Mark Helmsing joined the faculty of George Mason University in 2017 and is currently a faculty member in the School of Education's Secondary Education (SEED) M.Ed. program; Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning (ASTL) M.Ed. program; and the Teaching and Teacher Education (TATE) Ph.D. program. Dr. Helmsing is also an affiliate faculty member with Mason’s Center for International Education (CIE), Mason's Folklore Studies Program and Mason's Department of History & Art History. Dr. Helmsing advises students across different graduate programs as well as undergraduate research through OSCAR and Mason's B.I.S. program. As part of his work in teacher education, Dr. Helmsing serves as the SEED Program's Coordinator of Clinical Experiences and as the program's parter school University Facilitator for clinical experiences at Lake Braddock Secondary School. As an educational researcher, Dr. Helmsing uses affect theory and critical phenomenology to study how people express and experience historical attachments to the past in schools, museums, popular culture, and everyday life. His research has included studies of how U.S. teachers and students express different feelings and attachments for the nation; how U.S. high school students express attachments of national belonging; how the U.S. as a nation is figuratively troped and imagined in social studies curriculum; and the social imaginaries high school teachers and students have about America. He is also a member of a research collective with faculty at other universities in studying how death and dying appear in school curricula, including studies of how the past is imagined in ghost walks, graveyards, cemteries, and related areas of 'dark' heritage. Dr. Helmsing has conducted fieldwork in schools and communities throughout the United States, including the Urban Advantage Program in New York City Public Schools, as well as in cultural institutions such as the Arab-American National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. His work has also included global experiences with students in Germany and Poland to study how people express historical attachments to the Holocaust and in Cyprus to study Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot historical attachments across borders. Dr. Helmsing is a co-editor of the volume Keywords in the Social Studies: Concepts and Conversations and has published numerous book chapters and articles in journals such as Theory & Research in Social Education; Journal of Social Studies Research; Journal of Adult & Adolescent Literacy; Journal of Curriculum Theorizing; Race, Ethnicity, & Education; and Review of Education, Pedagogy, & Cultural Studies. He is a member of the editorial board of Taboo: A Journal of Culture and Education; Journal of Curriculum & Pedagogy; and a number of different academic book series.

Research Interests
  1. History & Social Studies Education
  2. Curriculum Theory & Curriculum Studies
  3. Imagination, Figuration, & Metaphor in Education 
  4. Affect, Mood, & Emotion in Education 
  5. Folklore, Heritage, & Vernacular History
  6. Critical Phenomenology
  7. Carnal Hermeneutics 
  8. Popular Culture & Critical Media Literacy
  9. Museums & Education

Seeking Collaborators: Competencies Offered and Sought

Recent Publications

Recent publications in the past year:

Helmsing, M. (2020). Uncertain historical knowledge for uncertain times. Knowledge Cultures, 8(2), 82-86. 

Helmsing, M. & Noy, S. (2020). Teaching global health in the time of Covid-19: Key concepts for social studies. Journal of International Social Studies, 10(2), 103-112. 

Helmsing, M. & van Kessel, C. (2020). Critical corpse studies: Engaging with death and corporeality in curriculum. Taboo: Journal of Culture and Education, 19(3), 140-164.

Helmsing, M. (2020). Youth, Becoming-American, and learning the Vietnam War. In S.R. Steinberg & B. Down (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of critical pedagogies (pp. 1411-1420). SAGE Publications.

Huddleston, G. & Helmsing, M. (2020). Pop culture 2.0: A political curriculum in the Age of Trump. In P.P. Trifonas (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research in cultural studies and education (pp. 543-557). Springer.

Helmsing, M. (2020). Queer theory and the social studies: Engaging with histories, communities, and identities. In C. Brant & L. Willox (Eds.), Teaching the Teachers: LGBTQ Issues in Teacher Education. Information Age Publishing. 

Helmsing, M. (2019). Disability plots: Curriculum, allegory, & history. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 34(1), 110-116.

Helmsing, M. & Vardas-Doane, A. (2019). Teaching and learning medievalism in popular culture as history education. Teaching Social Studies, 19(1), 25-30.