Call for Contributions: Sustainability, Inclusivity, and the Future Directions of University History Degree Programmes

Deadline for Abstracts: 1st June 2022.

Background image by Kimberly Farmer via Unsplash

The theme for this conference, which will be held virtually on 14th September 2022, is the strategic directions and the responses of the History professional community to the recent 2022 QAA History Subject Benchmark.

Published in March 2022, the new Benchmark Statement combines both more traditional elements of a History degree with consideration of newer and emergent themes in global HE, such as global development goals, social mobility through graduate employment, entrepreneurialism, and sustainability. Many institutions have approached these areas through the vehicle of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These have however been criticised by some as difficult to implement or difficult to quantify internationally.

This conference aims to offer a space to discuss what the shift towards these new measures and strategies means for the History profession and for History degrees.

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Reflections of a PGR on the EMC Teaching Scheme

Alex Riggs, University of Nottingham

Alex Riggs is a second-year PhD student researching politics and ideas of the American left, c. 1973-1988. In this blog, he reflects on his experience as a participant in the 2021/22 cohort of the EMC Training to Teach Workshops and the EMC PGR Mentoring Scheme.

For every PGR historian, the first teaching experience is a moment of particular trepidation. Having sat through plenty of seminars to get to this stage, teaching might seem the most familiar of all. Yet it might also be the most mysterious- what secret wisdom had our old tutors tapped into to appear knowledgeable about every subject and in command of every session? And when PGR teaching situations diverge from the norm of being assigned to a first-year module group, the enigma seems even more elusive. Those colleagues that find teaching opportunities elsewhere return from the faraway lands of Sheffield and Leicester with the aura of having cracked the code.

The EMC’s Teaching and Mentoring Scheme removes much of the mystery. Through workshops, mentoring, and practical experience, it becomes clear that for even the most experienced lecturers there is no magic formula. Rather, teaching itself is an ongoing learning process, one that requires an open-mind and a willingness to adapt. It may be cliched to say, but no two seminars are ever the same. Having been part of the EMC’s scheme, I feel far more confident in embracing that unpredictability. In this blog, I’ll explain the stages of the programme and what I found useful from them, before offering some brief reflections on teaching. None of them will be revelatory to experienced pedagogues, but I hope other seminar tutors-in-waiting will find them useful and reassuring.

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Post-Pandemic Pedagogy: Identifying Best Practice for History Teaching after Covid

Dr Marcus Collins (University of Loughborough) and Professor Jamie Wood (University of Lincoln)

Opening slide from recent presentation about initial findings regarding assessment and feedback .

Universities are currently considering what teaching looks like after Covid and have explored teaching innovations necessitated by the pandemic. Less common, however, is an attempt to reconcile different perspectives of teachers and students. This project, initially funded by EMC and now also supported by History UK and the Royal Historical Society, seeks to collect evidence from students and staff about their experiences of teaching and learning during the pandemic with the intention of developing a series of discipline-specific recommendations for the future of History teaching at UK universities. The initial phase involved surveying staff and students from across the East Midlands. The survey received over 200 responses.

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Food Sustainability and Security: Past, Present, and Future

Dr Carol Beardmore (De Montfort University) and Professor Steven King (Nottingham Trent)

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

This project, supported with EMC seedcorn funding, is a day workshop bringing together historians from across the East Midlands, landowners, and policymakers to explore the theme ‘Food Sustainability and Security: Past, Present, and Future’. The workshop also involves undergraduate, postgraduate taught, and postgraduate research students from across the EMC institutions. It offers students the opportunity to explore food sustainability and security with those who have expertise on the current issues and illustrates the role of history in debates about the present and the future. After the event, students will also conduct oral histories with participants. These interviews will be edited as podcasts reflecting on the role of history in shaping modern policy dilemmas like food sustainability and security. The project seeks to provide students with real world skills and experience and encourage further connections between students and staff across the EMC institutions.

The Study Group

Dr Joe Merton, University of Nottingham

In this blog, Dr Joe Merton reflects on approaching group-based discussions and collaborative learning in an online learning environment.

The problem

One of the pleasures of university teaching is the opportunity we have to create distinct “communities of practice” in the classroom. Through group-based discussions of historiography and primary evidence specific to our areas of expertise or student-led seminars on historical questions we ourselves are grappling with, we are able to develop disciplinary skills, share ideas and perspectives, and forge common bonds or objectives, deepening students’ engagement with their subject and their peer group while seeing themselves as independent but also collaborative learners. In my own teaching I have used strategies such as task-based learning, problem-solving, and collaborative seminars (the latter designed and delivered by students and myself in partnership) to foster this sense of shared enterprise and community.

But how can we create opportunities for peer group interaction and collaborative learning in the context of a pandemic, where students are working online or in a socially distanced classroom, and where group-based interactions and exchanges are not permissible or laden with risk?

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