It's a paradox that while universities in general are being squeezed between pressure for change and lack of financial resources, Classics and Ancient History now have opportunities to bid for funding for sizeable projects in teaching and learning. These could give added impetus and influence to the imaginative work that is already being done in curriculum development and in the creation of teaching and learning strategies that are responsive to the needs of new constituencies of students. Projects funded by LTSN Teaching Development Grants are now being completed and others are in progress. Contributors to the LTSN panels at the next Classical Association Conference in Leeds in April 2004 will discuss the implications of these projects as well as focusing on the school-university interface.
The interest of classicists and ancient historians in subject-based practitioner-led teaching development projects was strongly evident in the report of the recent independent evaluation of the first phase of the work of the LTSN. The evaluation was qualitative in approach and was based on nineteen interviews, seven of which were with academics in classical subjects. Of the three subject areas considered, academics in Classics Ancient History emerged as particularly committed to the idea that progress was best achieved through debate and exchange of information and ideas. There was a strong desire for rigorous subject-led research which would inform debates on classical teaching. Areas which were thought to be of particular importance included exploration of different approaches to seminar work around texts and the development of computer-assisted learning and on-line materials. Some of those interviewed thought that while small projects could show the way there was now a need for larger substantially funded research and development which would have wide application in classical subjects. This represents a substantial shift in opinion over the last few years and in particular a recognition that important research in teaching and learning can and should be undertaken by classicists and ancient historians, rather than being the preserve of educational researchers.
There are two forthcoming initiatives that will enable these aspirations to be turned into reality.
Currently the plans for the establishment of The Higher Education Academy are also being publicised. This will be a UK-wide umbrella organisation incorporating the LTSN subject centres and the ILTHE (if its members vote to join) and is to be developed from early 2004. The Academy prospectus indicates that it intends to work with a wide range of partner organisations, including subject and professional organisations, in order to further curriculum and pedagogic development and that it will promote and support relevant research and scholarship. It will also aim to 'facilitate the professional development and increase the professional standing of all staff in higher education'. The Academy's role is also intended to cover 'the leadership and co-ordination of national quality enhancement policy and practice'. The success of the LTSN subject centres so far has been based on their work for and as part of their subject communities and a good deal of determination may be needed to make sure that this distinctiveness and devolved activity is not weakened by incorporation in a much larger structure. The voices of the subject communities will need to be heard loud and strong in the forthcoming months as plans for the Academy are firmed up.
In the face of all these developments, my mood is one of cautious optimism. The Classics and Ancient History community is cohesive, with strong subject associations and excellent links between school and university sectors. It is well placed to prepare strong bids for FDTL5 and to contribute to the proposed CETLs. For the first time there will now be substantial funding available for sustained research and development work on the curriculum and on teaching and learning. In spite of all the other demands on academics' time, now is the moment to seize those opportunities. They will not come again.
LTSN HCA--Classics and Ancient History
The Open University
|||Completed reports include 'The Flexible Electronic Ancient Greek Teaching and Learning Project' led by Dr Jon Hesk (University of St Andrews), 'Hellenizein: A Flexible Structure for Teaching Greek to Archaeologists and Ancient Historians' led by Professor Graham Shipley (University of Leicester), 'Study Skills: Plato's Protagoras' by Dr Catherine Osborne (University of Liverpool), 'Rethinking "Unseen" Translation: a Pilot Scheme for Developing Students' Reading Skills in Greek and Latin" by Dr Emily Greenwood (University of St Andrews) and Dr Elizabeth Irwin (University of Cambridge) et al. The reports are available on the LTSN HCA web-site, http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/.|
|||James Wisdom, Evaluation of the History, Classics and Archaeology Subject Centre, July 2003. A copy of the evaluation is to be made available on the LTSN HCA web-site.|
|||The invitation to bid is on the HEFCE web-site at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Pubs/hefce/2003/03_46/. Some subject specific information is on the LTSN HCA web-site at http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/FDTL5/.|
|||As well as Archaeology, there is a very broad range of other subject disciplines. They are: Theology and Religious Studies; Politics; Philosophy; Celtic Studies; Economics; Business and Management; Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation, Sport and Tourism; Management; Education; Librarianship and Information.|
|||It is in PDF format at http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/fdtl5/C-AH_state_of_nation_report.pdf.|
|||Details on HEFCE web-site at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2003/03%5F36.htm.|
|||Its interim web-site is available at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/.|
|||It seems that the LTSN will continue until the end of 2005 to allow a smooth transition from and integration of the various subject centres into the Academy.|
CUCD Bulletin 32 (2003)
© Lorna Hardwick 2003