Methods of Archaeology Fieldtrip by dov51579


									Methods of Archaeology Fieldtrip

Dr Alan Greaves


Methods of Archaeology (ALGY 101) is the compulsory module for all Archaeology-
based degrees the School. It is taught in the first semester and in 2002 had 184
students registered on it. In addition to twice weekly lectures and weekly tutorials, an
important part of the delivery of this module is a one-day fieldtrip. Originally, this trip
visited four archaeological sites of prehistoric, roman and medieval date.

The problems encountered with the module were:

      Surprisingly poor student feedback during module evaluation
      Students said they did not see the point of the fieldtrip
      Students felt unconnected with the purpose of the fieldtrip
      Comparison between contemporary sites was not possible
      The fieldtrip had no clear learning outcomes
      Increasing student numbers made practical arrangements difficult


In response to the situation noted above, the ALGY 101 fieldtrip was redesigned.
Instead of one large group outing, two separate fieldtrips were organised to take place
on the same day, each taking about 100 students on two buses, rather than the
previous four buses. This made it easier to handle the large number of students.

One of these trips took students to three roman military sites (Segontium, Pen-y-
Gwyrd, Kanovium) and the other went to three prehistoric hill forts (Old Oswestry,
Maiden Castle, Moel-y-Gaer). This change made it possible to allocate students to
fieldtrips, appropriate to their degree programme, i.e. roman forts for those degree
programmes with a Classical component, such as Ancient History and Archaeology.
The students were therefore better able to identify with the purpose of the fieldtrip as
it was more directly relevant to their degree scheme than the previous multi-period
choice of sites.

Clear learning outcomes for the fieldtrip were included in the handbook. These helped
students appreciate the purpose of the fieldtrip and the role that it played within the
delivery of the module as a whole.

All the sites were roughly contemporary and this allowed students to appreciate the
diversity of form, size, and preservation of roman forts and prehistoric hill forts.

By choosing sites in different states of preservation, students were made to appreciate
the varying nature of archaeological sites and the changes that can be wrought on
similar sites by post-depositional factors such as building works and environmental
The first site visited on both fieldtrips was a well preserved example of its type, well
labelled and presented to the public and needed little interpretation to the students
Segontium, Old Oswestry).

The second site was barely visible and heavily disturbed (Pen-y-Gwryd, Maiden
Castle). Here the fieldtrip leaders demonstrated to the students where the sites were
and how to read the land to identify earthworks.

The third site was unlabelled but in a reasonable state of preservation (Kanovium,
Moel-y-Gaer). Here students were encouraged to read the sites for themselves, based
on their experiences at the previous two sites, and discuss their observations with the
fieldtrip leaders.

The result was an incremental learning experience, whereby students learned the
importance of close observation of the landscape and the varied nature of
archaeological sites, which was reinforced by their observations at the final site.

Although not in assessed in itself, participation in the fieldtrip was linked to the first
assessed essay for the module. This made the relevance of the exercise clear to the
students and increased their engagement with it. Where relevant, the sites visited are
cited as examples in the module lectures, further reinforcing the usefulness of the day-


Even with the group divided between two separate fieldtrips, it was difficult to
address the large numbers of students involved. To aid this A3 laminated plans of
each site were produced and used by the leaders to show to the students.

It was difficult to show where the most difficult to see sites were. To help, ranging
rods were used and laid out on the sites to show to students were the earthworks were.
This also introduced an element of active learning into the trip.

Student feedback on module evaluation was still mixed, with students citing the early
start (9am on a Saturday), the length of time spent in the bus and the weather as
factors. However, an equal number of students felt that there ought to be more
fieldtrips. Clearly opinions on this will always be divided.

The need for a clear pre-fieldtrip briefing lecture, which explained the organisation of
the two fieldtrips and the learning outcomes of the day, became apparent.

As with any fieldtrip, practical factors such as road works, toilets facilities,
conditions, etc, can intervene on the day to affect the itinerary in ways that can affect
the learning outcomes of the exercise.


There was considerably better feedback on the module as a whole than in previous
Students have acquired a useful archaeological skill – the ability to be able to locate
low earthworks in a field.
The students were made to realise that archaeology is a skilled practice.
The students were made to realise landscape observation is a useful technique for
finding and locating archaeological sites.
By visiting small, badly preserved unlabelled sites, rather than just large English
heritage managed properties, the students were made to realise how ubiquitous
archaeological sites are in the British landscape.
The assessed essays were better then in previous years.
In general, the students were more engaged with the fieldtrip and the module as a

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