Students in Archaeology: Understanding and Engaging the Next Generation of Archaeologists

Posted on July 21, 2015


Another batch of videos from TAG. I know, 7 months late. You may want to book mark this page because the discuss at the end of these videos are pretty great. Hope you enjoy and here is what the session was about:

Session organiser: David Altoft
Students are essential to the development of archaeology, today as well as in the future. Understanding this formative demographic is important for allowing us to comprehend the current foundations of archaeological theory and practice and how those will develop under future generations of archaeologists. This session will critically ask what the discipline knows about its current students and whether it effectively engages and works with this particular demographic, and if not, how it can realistically improve.
Participation is welcome from people of all demographics of archaeology, including students (of any level), academics, non-academic practitioners, and others. Eight papers offering a diverse range of perspectives on students in archaeology will act as case studies to facilitate discussion. Amongst other issues, this session will explore methods of teaching, engagement, collaborative working, and initiatives that promote employability and skills development.
From looking at the concerns of students, their access to academic and commercial archaeology, participation in research, debate and other opportunities, this session will aim to reach a collective understanding between all participants of the barriers to student involvement in archaeology, and agreement on the ways forward to overcoming those barriers.

Careers and skills: bridging the gap

David Connolly

The reported chasm that lies between academia and a commercial career is real enough, with contractors, consultants and heritage bodies all reporting a lack of practical skills in archaeologists at entry level. A misunderstanding of what university is for by some, and reluctance of companies to take on the role of early career trainers on the other hand, has led to the recent graduates being forced to sink or swim in an unfamiliar environment with little applied training and even less time to learn.
A forced gap in this process creates a progressively de-skilled workforce. However, with the recent introduction of the skills passport there is an opportunity to accredit and record skills required by contractors prior to employment. On a wider forum regarding training however, there is the potential for a practical exchange between academics, students and contractors. This paper seeks to explore closing the skills gap, and the creation of a comprehensive cross-sector bridge that benefits all parties.

Talking to students: forums for initiatives, innovations and development

Alex Westra

An archaeology student’s university experience is diverse, though not all students have access to the same opportunities. A well-known and recurring theme of discussion is that many students leave their institutions with a strong feeling of inadequacy in terms of having acquired the necessary skills for their careers. One aspect of it is that they (or we) do not often have the opportunities of taking on independent or semi-independent projects. Such projects can only sustain themselves through the interest and dedication of the student body. However, outreach projects, journals, discussion groups and other independent projects that take place at Edinburgh University, and further afield, demonstrate how these projects foster initiatives and innovations. They provide the impetus for students to generate ideas and independent thought without the onus of excellence in performance usually expected in academia. These can then translate into skills, experience and professional development. By taking control of a portfolio of their own making, students develop specific and general skills which will carry them in their prospective careers. This paper aims to present certain case studies from recent and current University of Edinburgh student projects, some of which I was involved with, in order to provide some points of reference for discussion about the session’s themes.

40 years of statistics on archaeology students: so what do we actually know?

Doug Rocks-Macqueen

Since 1994, when UK archaeologists have needed statistics on our university students we reach for the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) data. But, we have completely ignored HESA’s predecessor, the Universities Statistical Record (USR), which has data from 1972 to 1993. Essentially we only ever talk about the last 20 years of students. This paper takes the first-time step of using both HESA and USR data to look at 40 years of students in UK archaeology statistics. The goal of which is not to reminisce about the past, but to see the long trends flowing through higher education archaeology teaching in hopes of better understanding what the future holds. Like many archaeology papers this one looks at the past to help guide our future. It lays out what we might expect from the next 40 years of teaching students archaeology at UK universities.

Learning by leading: working to encourage ownership in seminar settings

Alison Leonard presented by David Altoft

Tutors often complain of students who expect to be ‘spoon-fed’ and who might not grasp the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning until their third year – if then. This talk will focus on teaching archaeology in the Higher Education classroom, specifically in a seminar setting. A case study taken from an experimental seminar structure implemented in second-year Historical Archaeology seminars at the University of York provides a way into considering how we might help students become better learners by encouraging leadership and ownership of learning.
Over the past three years, several tutors in the Department of Archaeology at York have been trialling the use of students as ‘discussion leaders’ in second-year seminars. The principle is that having students chair their own seminar provides them with important practice in leading others in discussion, and the opportunity to take ownership over a specific topic. It is also designed to build confidence. Since chairing is something that they are expected to do regularly during assessed lectures and seminars in the third year, it is also viewed as a means of incrementally increasing their levels of responsibility. We have received mixed results and responses from the students regarding the discussion leaders and further adjustments are being made for the 2014-15 academic year. The shortcomings and benefits to the approach, as well as the perceived future benefits, are outlined here, as we continue to work to improve the implementation of seminar ‘discussion leaders’.
Other examples of encouraging students to take ownership for their learning will also be referred to, including making better use of research-led teaching – a strength of archaeological education. The overall aim is to consider how best we might extend student initiative and ownership within the seminar setting.

A Chartered profession: CIfA and the next generation

Amanda Forster

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists will be launched in December 2014 after 32 years developing the professional body for our sector. We have just over 3,200 members, of which 2,200 are accredited professionals and around 500 are student members. Recently we have been focusing our attention on early career archaeologists with a new IfA network for new generation archaeologists (NGSIG) – an umbrella which encompasses students, graduates and those archaeologists on the first few rungs of their career ladder. Following the development of National Occupational Standards (NOS), the setting up of an NVQ in archaeological practice and the HLF-funded Workplace Bursaries Scheme, IfA has provided a framework for graduate training which we feel has not yet been taken up as fully as we would like by industry partners – or perhaps not understood in this capacity. Our most recent practice paper (An introduction to providing career entry training in your organisation) sums up this approach to structured workplace learning and our hope is that – on the back of economic recovery – archaeological organisations will look seriously at developing much-needed graduate training to bridge the gap from student to archaeologist.
Our next focus will be in supporting students before they enter the industry. As we move a step closer to having the option of one day being a chartered archaeologist, we know we have to develop pathways towards professional accreditation as early as possible. This means helping students identify which departments will best prepare them for a career in archaeology, helping them take control of their own professional development at an early stage in their learning and providing mentorship through those early stages. Professional institutes have an important role to play in supporting our future archaeologists and we want to help those forging a career in archaeology by ensuring they begin their career as they mean to go on – recognised as professionals with a future in archaeology.

Underwater Explorers: becoming an ambassador for underwater archaeology

Emily Stammitti

In the autumn of 2013, an underwater archaeology outreach programme was launched in Edinburgh and the Lothians, to engage communities ranked high on the Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation. What began as a series of public engagement sessions evolved into a long-term, council-funded educational programme called Underwater Explorers; its aim is to provide skills development and participation opportunities to children and adults of these disadvantaged communities in underwater archaeology.
A doctoral student in underwater archaeology, the skill set and teaching methodology of the developer of these programmes had to evolve to fit not only the demographic of students involved, but also take on a transformative quality that allowed easy modification from the theoretical approaches of archaeology undertaken in the lecture theatre to more innovative approaches appropriate for the community centre setting. As a constant on-site ambassador from the academic world of underwater archaeology, all discussions surrounding the discipline remained on the table with a diverse and always curious ‘non-archaeological’ public, who equally want information as well as hands-on opportunities.
The results of this year-long case study from one of the community centres indicates relieved feelings of relative deprivation, an increased sense of local pride and historical awareness, and the development of the basic educational and social skills necessary to pursue a career in archaeology. Greater still, lessons taken from the community centre setting indicate how the public perceives underwater archaeology, the teaching of it, and how students can overcome perceived barriers to teaching through motivation, adaptability and a touch of on-site innovation.

Preparing for professionalism: is a degree in archaeology really enough?

Lauren McIntyre

Students are the future of archaeology, or are they? In an archaeological world that is rapidly changing as a result of Britain’s economic situation, graduates are finding it harder and harder to get their professional archaeological ‘break’. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest that today’s degree courses may not provide opportunities for students to develop the practical skills necessary for a career in certain professional sectors. Many find this increasingly frustrating, particularly considering the rising financial output required to get a degree.
This talk aims to examine whether current UK degree courses provide the requisite skills necessary for today’s undergraduates to find a job as a professional field archaeologist after graduation, discussing characteristic methods of teaching and subjects covered by typical UK degree courses, types of skills (academic and practical) that undergraduate students are likely to learn at university, how this compares to commercial unit expectations and working standards, and the types of jobs that today’s archaeology undergraduates actually take on after their degree.
Furthermore, this talk will discuss student attitudes to working as a professional archaeologist (focussing on, but not limited to the commercial sector), professional archaeological attitudes towards students and new graduates, and suggestions for the future about how degree courses and universities could better prepare students for life after university.

Archaeology for all: the role of students

Mike Heyworth

In a graduate discipline where over 99% of the workforce has a relevant degree it is absolutely appropriate to say that students are the future. This paper will review the opportunities for students to engage with archaeology groups and projects across the UK, both in a professional and voluntary capacity, using opportunities to develop new skills and experience. Suggestions will be put forward for ways in which students can support the archaeological discipline, both individually and collectively, whilst at the same time enhancing their own career prospects and life skills.

To see more videos like these please go to the YouTube channel Recording Archaeology-

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