Panic Not: The Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook

In 2020 History departments suddenly had to think seriously about how to move teaching online. For most, this ‘emergency phase’ was a daunting and challenging time, but for some historians, there was also a sense of cautious excitement.  As a subject-area, we have tended to prefer physical settings and interactions over digital ones. The Canadian historian Dr Sean Kheraj has observed that COVID is making us use tools that are unfamiliar to many historians and forcing us to upskill to work within a digital landscape that we have often overlooked.

At History UK, we recognised a need to support the history community during this time of transition. From late May 2020, a group of Steering Committee members have been meeting to discuss how to do this. Our Pandemic Pedagogy subgroup have run a series of Twitter chats to see what colleagues have learned from the new role online learning has come to play. As part of this process, we have written a series of short posts (on learning design, lectures, contact hours, assessment, accessibility, and community building in the classroom and in wider cohorts) and gathered feedback from the wider community.

As a result of this work, we have produced a short guide to help colleagues in thinking about what it means to move our teaching online – The Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook. You can access it at the The Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook webpage, where you can also download the full Handbook and each of the individual sections in PDF format. 

We framed the Handbook around a number of questions:  

  1. What happens to our students’ experience of learning, in and out of the ‘classroom’?
  2. What happens to accessibility?
  3. What happens to community?
  4. What happens to seminars?
  5. What happens to primary source work?
  6. What happens to lectures?
  7. What happens to assessment and feedback?

This is not the end of our commitment to creating a space for collaborative conversations around pedagogy in the time of a global pandemic. We invite colleagues to write short posts that we can share on our blog in order to keep the conversation going. Topics could include (but are not limited to): practical case studies of teaching online, think-pieces that address any aspect of the move online such as equity, diversity and inclusivity, community building, teaching and learning. technology, digital humanities. Please share your insights into any of these areas, especially if you have practical examples of approaches to teaching History online, and encourage colleagues to do the same. 

We are also interested in receiving feedback on the Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook itself. Please do let us know if it has informed your practice using the comments section on the Handbook webpage and/or @history_uk.  

We would like to thank everyone involved in putting together this guide. The project was led by Kate Cooper (Royal Holloway/ @kateantiquity); steering committee contributors were Lucinda Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores/ @luciejones83), Yolana Pringle (Roehampton/ @y_pringle), Manuela Williams (Strathclyde/ @ManuelaAWill), and Jamie Wood (Lincoln/ @MakDigHist). We were joined by Louise Crechan (Glasgow/ @LouiseCreechan) and Aimee Merrydew (Keele/ @a_merrydew) as Pandemic Pedagogy Fellows.

Perspectives on the New to Teaching workshop 2018

Below we collect some perspectives from participants in the New to Teach event that was held at the IHR in September 2018. Sponsored by the Royal Historical Society, HUK provided travel funding to enable participants from outside London to attend. We share some of their thoughts below.

Amy King (Bristol)

With the start of my new job looming (thanks in no small part to the Academic Job Boot Camp earlier this year!), I was delighted to sign up for the New To Teaching training held in September. The day started with an introduction to writing new courses, including an overview of the principles of backwards design and some practical exercises to get us started. Needless to say, I feel much less daunted by the prospect of writing two new modules this year thanks the session! We were also given a taste of how to use digital humanities to improve the student experience, shown some exciting examples of the use of social media in the classroom, and given some top tips and tricks for delivering lectures and seminars. Thank you to History UK for another brilliant, practical training day; I look forward to putting what we learned into practice in the new academic year.

 

Marc Collinson (Bangor)

Although I have taught seminars for four years, being offered the opportunity to convene a module for the first time had proved daunting. Likewise, my simultaneous entering the Job market after just shy of four years enrolled on a PhD forced me to reassess my employment situation – was I fully equipped? Was I prepared? The session was enlightening in helping me to consider the fundamentals of lecturing, seminar leading and course design – revisiting these in a friendly environment was fruitful and encouraging. This session helped me ignore some of the pettier concerns I had and prepare to rethink what I could do differently, it also made me more confident for an interview for a post-doc I had the following week. At time of writing, I had not heard back, but I felt more prepared for the interview, and comfortable with the line of questioning. I would thoroughly recommend others attend this event in future. Even if you think you are a good tutor, it is important to be able to reflect and reassess. That is, after all, a cornerstone of the teaching in higher education.

 

Liz Brooker (Leicester)

Having done a PGCE in Secondary History, I thought I would attend this course to update my practice now that I am teaching in Higher Education. I thought the course was very well structured and it covered lots of different teaching styles such as small group teaching and lecturing. I found these sessions useful and have tried to implement some of the strategies in my own teaching. The careers development session at the end of the day was very informative. It was especially nice to hear the thoughts and experiences of the other academics in attendance.

 

Thomas Davies (Bangor)

The History UK New to Teaching event was a thoroughly enjoyable day, raising some interesting points and encouraging thought on how to structure lessons, how to engage students and ensure they obtain as much as possible from lectures and seminars, providing a forum for discussion with peers and with an opportunity also to discuss with individuals experienced in teaching techniques. I have managed to incorporate some of the ideas in semester of teaching – together this has helped in my professional development and made me keen to continue teaching in the future!

Report on New to Teaching event, September 2017

Peter D'Sena
Peter D’Sena

A one day New to Teaching event for early career historians took place in early September at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), London.  Peter D’Sena, Learning and Teaching Specialist at the University of Hertfordshire and a Senior Research Fellow at the IHR, ran several events of this kind when he was Discipline Lead for History at the Higher Education Academy (HEA). However, in 2014 the HEA relinquished its direct interest in supporting discipline-specific events of this kind and so Peter sought funding and support from the Royal Historical Society, History UK and the IHR to keep the event going. It’s become an annual event since then. Peter has provided a summary of the event, which follows:

“Over twenty people attended the event, and participated in a series of interactive workshops designed to develop their understanding of innovations in teaching and learning with a focus on curriculum design and authentic assessment, teaching seminar groups, using digital technology in the undergraduate classroom, quality assurance and preparing for the academic job market. Peter led with an interactive session about curriculum design. Historians at Indiana University, such as David Pace, Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow have been pioneering the work of decoding the disciplines in order to rethink the ways in which teaching and curriculum design can be more finely tuned to address the conceptual bottlenecks that hinder student progression. In a practical exercise, participants combined this pedagogic strategy with the more well-trodden approach of Constructive Alignment to improve one area of their teaching. Jamie Wood (University of Lincoln), then facilitated a session about small group/seminar work. Some of us may take for granted what a seminar is and what it can be for. By modelling several best practices, Jamie showed participants some of the ways in which seminars can be used to encourage small groups of students to deepen their historical understanding through hands-on and collaborative learning. James Baker (University of Sussex), carried on this theme in his session, though with a specific focus on improving student engagement with historical information and enquiry through the vehicle of the digital humanities. .

Not all of our students are so-called ‘digital natives’ and struggle to understand the ways in which technology can be used to both support their own learning and interrogate the past. Peter’s second session took on the thorny subject of job applications. As you would imagine, in the current climate, this was a session that grabbed participants’ attention. 

Finally, we were also fortunate, on this occasion, to have a session from Adele Nye (University of New England, Australia) about quality assurance and standards in history. Her work about recent changes in the ways in which undergraduate achievement is measured in Australian universities gave participants to compare their strategies and processes with the ways in which expectations for history in higher education in the UK have been set out by the most recent QAA benchmark statement (2014). Also present, supporting and prompting participants during these workshops, were Jakub Basista (Jagiellonian University, Poland) and Ken Fincham, chair of the RHS Education Policy Committee (University of Kent).”

All of the presentations from the event can be accessed here.

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