Earlier in the week I had the pleasure of attending a Higher Education Academy conference called ‘Teaching outside the HE history classroom: field visits, oral history, museums and monuments’. Having only limited teaching experience myself, it was pretty inspiring and certainly something of an eye-opener to the professional intricacies of Higher Education.
Unlike a traditional academic conference, where the results of historical and archaeological research are discussed, the focus here was on educational methods. In particular, it was about how education can be taken beyond the classroom.
Taking place in rather intimate settings with a delegate list of only maybe fifteen people, it was without doubt the most engaging and interactive conference I have ever been to. Although teaching is a huge part of academia, people seldom discuss it. To put it a little bluntly, quite a lot of people get into academia because they love research. This is not to say that most lecturers are not also passionate about teaching, but there is a definite emphasis on research.
It was therefore very refreshing to be in a room full of people who were incredibly passionate about teaching. In fact, many of them reminded me of my school history teachers without whom I would have never got into this game.
Having met the organiser previously at another conference, I decided to submit a paper about blogging and how it can be a useful tool for furthering student (and non-student) engagement with the past. I suppose I was a bit of a fraud in doing so, given my limited teaching experience, but I think I put forward a reasonably compelling case and I got some great feedback.
Alongside my presentation were a whole host of fascinating papers, ranging from discussions of particularly effective teaching methods to critical provocations about disciplinary reluctance to embrace the benefits of field work. Of particular relevance to our archaeological interests here at ‘Darkage-ology’ was the presentation by Dr Karina Croucher (University of Bradford) about student excavation. A topic close to my own heart; it was encouraging to hear the results of her large-scale study of departmental excavation and how essential the students felt fieldwork was to their professional development. The full report can be found here.
There were too many good papers to list here, and I may write a more comprehensive summary over the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that the conference was incredibly useful and a truly fascinating insight into the role of teaching in the Higher Education profession.