Creating Innovative Learning Methods in Archaeology: Integrating the Practical and the Theoretical in Artefact Studies

This session took place as part of the 2020 Conference. The presenters were Andy Needham, Jess Bates, Mike Groves, Andy Langley, Steph Piper.


We report on the creation of an innovative learning method as part of the recently redeveloped Accessing Archaeology year one undergraduate course in Archaeology, which allows students to appreciate theory in practice in relation to the study of artefacts, a key pillar of archaeological inquiry.

We combined experimental archaeology, a practical technique in which objects are replicated to understand their manufacture and function, with object biography, a theoretical approach to integrate information about an archaeological object and explore its full life course to aid in the exploration of the fields of social relationships in which the object was integrated. When taken together, these approaches were mutually reinforcing, and encouraged students to think more deeply about the artefacts they encountered across the course, coming to appreciate ways to explore the people behind the artefacts being studied.

Student feedback reflects that students enjoy this coming together of the practical and theoretical within the same module. Our observations, both in seminars and in practical session, suggest that the integration of the practical and the theoretical encourages multi-sensory engagement with artefacts, a deeper appreciation of aspects of production, functionality, and use, as well as encouraging engagement with the intangible social aspects embedded in ancient craft activities, supporting the achievement of the learning aims for the module.

You can access the recording of this session at this link here:

Creating Innovative Learning Methods in Archaeology: Integrating the Practical and the Theoretical in Artefact Studies (UoY Panopto log-in required)

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