This post is going to outline work I’m doing in preparation to teach a community archaeology course (which focuses upon the transition from the Roman to Early Medieval period in Derbyshire). I’ll be discussing some of the research I’m undertaking for this, and the process of planning and developing a course. I’ll also discuss the importance of AdEd beyond personal interest and development at the end of this post.
Adult and community education: planning a course and researching material
One of the things I’m doing at the moment is preparing a 2 hour course to teach locally, within the community (perhaps for a local museum). This will look at the evidence that we have for life in Romano-British and Early Medieval Derbyshire (using some new data), and (applying the knowledge I have gained during my research on other regions) consider what this might say about social and cultural identities. The course will be split into two parts: the first half will introduce a range of data to provide a historical background, which will involve questioning the evidence for ‘Romanisation’ during the Roman period, and exploring the debate surrounding Anglo-Saxon conquest and ‘Roman’ continuity or ‘Celtic revival’ in the Early Middle Ages. In the second part of the workshop, I hope to incorporate a session during which Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon finds and contexts can be interpreted by participants – involving the examination of plans from local excavations and handling related finds. In doing this course, I hope to develop public understanding of this fascinating period, and show how local history relates to wider changes.
Course preparation: an outline
There are a number of stages in developing an Adult or Community education workshop. This usually begins by making preliminary enquiries to prospective host organisations (such as museums, universities, or the WEA). Most work 6 – 18 months in advance, so if I were to propose a course now, I’d be unlikely to be able to teach this until after Easter next year.
One of my first jobs is to create course details for the organisation who may host this course (providing a summary of the course, outlining aims and objectives, learning outcomes, learning and teaching styles, who the course is directed towards, costs, material used etc.). I have to create a ‘scheme of work’ for the course (a timetable of tasks and activities within each session); to prepare worksheets, resource sheets (such as reading lists, lists of museums and sites of interest etc., and links to online material). I usually have to write publicity material (a short description of the course for pamphlets and posters, etc.), to advertise the course (I often have to distribute leaflets myself, in order to make as many people as possible aware of the course). I often have to create some form of assessment to ensure that participants have achieved the proposed learning outcomes, and occasionally have to create feedback forms. I also often create online resources for students on my website (which is currently under construction).
I usually use PowerPoint to illustrate my talk during the first session, so in order to create the series of slides, I have to get together material suitable for presentation (frequently creating maps and diagrams, editing photographs of relevant material and sites, and finding suitable excepts from texts). Although I’m usually familiar with the material that I will be covering, I often have to do more research, to confirm ideas or to find good examples. I usually have to check out the venue before giving a course (and ensure that my electronic documents are compatible with the available equipment), and sometimes have to arrange insurance and compile a risk-assessment. Consequently, preparing a 2-hour workshop or talk on a topic for the first time often takes over a week.
Today I’ve continued background research for this course, so that I might incorporate recent finds from the region. I’m looking through the data on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database, to build up a picture of finds distribution, which I’ll run through a GIS programme (see post 7. ‘Digitising Crickley plans and using GIS’). I have a research account with PAS, so am able to obtained detailed coordinates for most of the finds (these are concealed to avoid theft from find spots).
But not all research can be used – I’ve spent some time this week trying to find parallels for a piece of local sculpture that at first I wondered (due to the cross form) if it dated to the middle Saxon period. But as I continued to look into it, it became more likely that it was of later date (having seen similar shaped sculptures dating to the 11th – 12th centuries) – I’ve just had this date confirmed by a local specialist in Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Disappointing in one way – and often the way things go in archaeology – but I’ve learnt something new about later sculpture!
Why ‘AdEd’ and community archaeology is important
I’ve done quite a bit of Adult Education teaching in Universities (and some with organisations such as the WEA), and but many AdEd departments have now closed. Apart from providing local people with opportunities to pursue their interests and develop skills, this is likely to have an impact upon both conservation of the Historic Environment, and social identities. Being unaware of the fascinating and valuable historic sites around us, we’re less likely to try to find ways of incorporating heritage resources within economic development schemes. We’re now facing a time when the local community will have more of a say in planning – it’s therefore very important to provide members of the public with information on their Historic Environment, so that they may make informed choices with regard to local developments. Studying the past also shows us how our own histories often fit together and are shared with those of people that we see as ‘others’ – which may help to break down barriers within the community.
It’s been another long day, and I’ve not had time for a final post on academic writing and publishing. I’ll be unable to post this now – my job tomorrow is website and business development, which doesn’t really make for interesting reading for many people!
The Day of Archaeology has provided a great opportunity to show the different ways archaeologists work – congratulations to the organisers and thanks to the volunteers who have had to moderate my many posts!
Cheers, guys! Hopefully will be back next year!