Firstly, Will and I are extremely grateful to the participants of the placement for giving up their precious time to offer their reflections and feedback. For the three years that the placement has been running, I’ve come to really look forward to May and the two weeks we spend collaborating with PhD students, ECRs, and PGCE students in the final phases of their course. This positivity, and the meaningful relationships that were established this year, shone through the blog posts. This year, in our ‘new normal’, participants all reflected on how refreshing and uplifting it was to be able to share ideas and research in such a convivial setting- even if it was online! This online setting also allowed us to open the placement further to industry experts, and we are grateful to everyone who attended sessions and offered advice and feedback; the placement was better for it.
Every year, we work hard to improve the PGCE enrichment placement and our adapted focus naturally affects the tone and content of discussions each year. The first year was an initial test to see how we could all work together; the second year had much more of an emphasis on curriculum; this past year, it really felt like the focus was on collaboration. The discussions we had in each session were honest and frank about who owns history and how we can move to dismantle structures of hierarchical knowledge. There was a great respect for each other’s areas of expertise in the reflections. As sessional lecturers, we have very little teacher training, but the feedback from PhDs/ECRs comfortably discussing scaffolding, enquiry questions and understanding why certain seminars ‘don’t land’ is a testament to one of the core values of this placement. There were also some terrific discussions about bridging the gap between A level and undergraduate. There’s no magic switch the summer between school and university for the many students who go straight on to undergraduate History. Understanding those students’ experiences of studying history before they come into our seminars will enable us to make that switch much more accessible.
Equally, there was also an emphasis this year on seeing students’ journey from KS3 to undergraduate, and even observing each others’ school history lessons and seminars. As many of the reflections noted, participants also considered the students who do not continue their History education past KS3 and how we can ensure that history remains accessible outside of the academy.
Many of the responses from the now History Teachers feed into this further, highlighting how the research they discussed during the sessions can help to humanise the past for their pupils, and broaden the human experiences that their pupils encounter during lessons. As some of the answers mentioned, the small group discussions were an important space for discussing silences in collective memory and how we can better connect our students to the stories we present. Collectively, participants could offer each other little known sources and stories, new trends in historiography but also a knowledge of school pupils themselves and how to connect with them. The many references to future collaborations in the feedback makes us confident that we haven’t heard the last of these discussions.
This is an uncertain time for everybody, as yesterday’s post highlighted. Many of us researchers have no idea if we will have teaching jobs next year, or a stable post in the future. The newly qualified History Teachers are about to enter their whirlwind first year of teaching, with perhaps little time and space to consider the collaborations we discussed. How do we continue these important discussions as the wider history community sees cuts unlike we’ve seen before? What spaces can we use for these important discussions between educators? Will there be new spaces as we step into the unknown next year? For the moment, our participants all reflected that their teaching practice has improved from the placement, but they also expressed a sense that what we all do matters. Each of our particular areas of expertise is strengthened by working together and exploring how we can help each other. I think we all left the placement this year with new stories to tell and better methods to tell them. Ultimately, I also hope we will all have a better chance of being able to support each other in the future, whatever that brings.