Teaching and Assessment of Practice-Based Units in Archaeology

By Paula J. Gardiner.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Assessment has been identified as a core theme in higher education in British Universities. For students studying archaeology at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels, it is essential to gain experience in a wide range of practice-based Units, such as field survey, excavation, geophysical survey, artefact handing and air photographic interpretation. For post-graduate students who are pursuing a career in archaeology, it is even more important that they elevate these skills to a professional standard. Our students come from a wide range of academic abilities and backgrounds on both full-time and part-time programmes. Learning and teaching in the field is an essential element of our teaching programmes, but the design and assessment of these practice-based Units brings specific problems: students need unambiguous information in order to carry out specific fieldwork tasks; there must be clear dissemination of the necessary methodologies that will enhance the student learning experience in the field and both peer and tutor assessment must be seen to be equitable to all parties. Assessing any practical element in the field can be criticised for its subjectivity, but a standardised methodology is far from satisfactory.
This paper will explore the problems that tutors face both in designing and delivering practice-based Units; how they can clearly explain their methodologies and put in place a fair assessment which not only gives the necessary feedback, but from which students can learn and improve their practical skills.

Keywords: Britain, Teaching, Assessment, Practice-Based Units, Archaeology, Fieldwork

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 10, pp.89-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 879.177KB).

Dr. Paula J. Gardiner

Head of Continuing Education in Archaeology, Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Bristol, Bristol, Bristol, UK

Head of Continuing Education in Archaeolgy at the University of Bristol since 2003. Previously Lecturer in Archaeology and Director of Master’s Degree Programmes. I am the Programme Director for a part-time degree programme, (B.A.(Hons) in Archaeological Studies) and lecturer in British Prehistory. I am the Director of the Exmoor Landscape Project, researching the territorial movement and social organisation of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in south west England. My PhD research was on “The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in S.W. England” and involved the excavation of three late Mesolithic sites in Somerset, England. I am the joint Director of the Exmoor Field School which is funded by the Widening Participation Office at Bristol and gives ‘A’ Level students the opportunity to excavate prior to starting a University Degree. I am responsible for the design and assessment of the entire part-time degree programme at Bristol and am Admissions Officer for this degree. I represent the University on the Higher Education Academy for Archaeology; I am co-author of the South Western Archaeological Research Agenda; I have made appearances in several TV programmes on prehistoric archaeology (BBC; HTV) and participated in BBC Radio 4 programmes.


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