Research Resilience reflection 2: Resilience at Leeds University Library Special Collections

This slideshow by Tim Procter (University of Leeds) is the second in a series of reflections linked to the Research Resilience event organised by History UK and The National Archives’ Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP). You can find out more about the panel discussion and networking event here.

Having problems viewing these slides? You can also view them on the SlideShare website.

Pandemic Pedagogy 2.0: Grace Deignan – Being a History student during the pandemic

In this third post in our follow-up to Pandemic Pedagogy, we thought we would share one of the entries to our student video competition, from Grace Deignan, a third-year History student at the University of Glasgow. Grace offers some reflections on her experiences of student life during the pandemic and has also written a short reflection below. 

“Working online at University has obviously been a huge shift for students all across the country who are continuing to work towards their degree during the COVID pandemic. Online university undoubtedly has its pros and cons. I do consider myself extremely lucky to be in a position where I can still do my classes and feel like I am learning about my subject when I know so many people aren’t in the same position. My lecturers make the effort each week to create some sense of community in the class so that learning doesn’t seem so artificial and show how we can still make friends and have different experiences when we are stuck at home. However, I do greatly miss my life on campus. I believe that having interactive experiences with lecturers, university staff and other students is why most people choose to come to university. I look forward to when I can be back on campus and go back to old teaching methods because whilst online university is a great substitute at the moment, I could never imagine this mode of teaching creating the same level of satisfaction and enjoyment as a permanent shift online.” 

If you would like to contribute a short blog post or podcast/video that addresses how the pandemic has changed or affected history teaching and learning in Higher Education then please email Dr Sarah Holland (, History UK’s Education Officer.

Pandemic Pedagogy – But, what about lectures? 

Louise Creechan (GTA English Literature and Widening Participation, University of Glasgow)

Remote learning? Online delivery? Blended learning? F2F small group learning? Zoom? While universities are developing their own institutional  policies with regard to socially-distant classroom spaces, it remains highly unlikely that we will be filling lecture theatres with 200+ students any time soon. 

Deconstructing and Remodelling the Lecture

We are all familiar with the traditional lecture/seminar course model: several lectures (one or sometimes two hours long)  presented to the full cohort of students registered on a particular course each week, supplemented by a small-group seminar of an hour or so per week. The essential component of this model – the lecture – has been the object of scrutiny for a long time in studies of HE pedagogy. 

Since the 1980s, researchers have cast doubt on the extent that lectures promote deeper learning, arguing that the lecture is a mode of pedagogical practice that privileges certain types of learners, is too lengthy, unengaging, and stifles the development of autonomous thought. There are also accessibility issues that the traditional lecture format can struggle to accommodate. For example: fast-paced speech can make it more difficult for students with slower writing or processing speeds to take adequate notes and the focus on the voice of the lecturer over visual aids can make this medium more difficult for deaf students to follow.

As we move to remote learning, some of the deficiencies of the lecture model are exacerbated. Conducting synchronous live lectures over video conferencing software, such as Zoom or MS Teams, is problematic for the following reasons:

  • High bandwidth required 
  • Difficult to provide real-time captions
  • Requires high level of concentration over a sustained time period which is fatiguing 

table showing asynchronous versus synchronous tools

Source: Daniel Stamford, Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All (

These are all significant access issues which need to be addressed from the outset of our course redesigns. The pandemic offers an opportunity to try out some new approaches. 

So,  what can we do to offer our students an accessible alternative? 

  • Divide your lecture into several smaller chunks – there is a long-standing consensus that attention tends to wander after around 10-15 minutes. While there is some debate about this, students will always appreciate having each sub-topic presented in a separate unit so they can find it more easily for review and revision. 
  • Pre-record small chunks and invite comments from students by posing a question at the end or asking them to look further into topic X and discuss their findings (e.g. on a discussion board). QUB has produced this useful guide to making accessible videos. (Remember that audio recordings, like podcasts, are another viable option.) 
  • Boost engagement with your materials through quizzes and discussion forums.
  • Ask yourself whether you need to relay information to your students for them to achieve their intended learning outcomes. Could they learn by searching for information by themselves? This video from Dr Steven Mintz of the American Historical Association argues that ‘history is not a spectator sport’ and that the best way to learn history is to do history via source gathering ‘scavenger hunts’

What alternatives can we offer our students? Is the pandemic an opportunity to rethink existing pedagogical models? Are lectures useful for remote learning?

We would love to hear your thoughts on how we remodel our lectures to take advantage of remote learning strategies. Please do get in touch with us on Twitter @history_uk to share your experiences. 

Louise tweets at @LouiseCreechan


Summary of Plenary Paper ‘Working Together: collaborating in research and teaching’ (4th November 2017) – Professor Chris Whitehead


Professor Chris Whitehead (University of Newcastle) came to working with museums and sites after a first degree in art history, which took him to museum studies and into collaborations both at national and international level. These fields, as he pointed out, rarely have clearly defined boundaries. His talk took shape around his experience over many years of working together with museums, and around giving an honest account of the challenges that such work presents. This summary of Chris’ talk is based on the features that surprised or resonated with someone who has to date only very limited experience of working with museums. 

Challenges of bringing the world of academe and of museum practitioners together

Collaborators on all sides need to be aware of the often conflicting interests – those of the academic keen to ‘collaborate’, the home HE institution of the academic and the museum/heritage sector institution, and often there are sub-groups with important agendas within each partner group. Thus: time scales, audiences that are hard to reach, conservation issues, existing/tried and tested and hence efficient ways of working, audience requirements, media interest, annual report to the trustees for the museum sector, whereas for HEIs it is REF outputs and targets, different time scales of working/research time, academic integrity (e.g. critical stance to a museum; freedom to express an unpopular view)… along with factors such as admin support for academic leads, and harvesting insights over a longer term. 

Often both sides realise that there are benefits to collaborating but especially for the museum sector, previous experiences of getting bad publicity as a result of having been made the focus of academic study or lack of buy-in from some of the museum staff may make future collaborations very difficult. 

Challenges of working ‘internationally’

Deadlines for funding applications are often tight and information routinely demanded (e.g. about the collaborative partner institution) is potentially difficult to establish, or difficult to ascertain. Thus local government spokespersons may not ultimately be the people who have to be involved in the work itself. Hierarchies and other divisions and work practices (potentially at odds with accepted UK standards) may not be evident until the grant permits further visits. 

Chris’ talk highlighted the many levels of challenges, such as communication, local historic conflicts between ethnic groups, bureaucracy and linguistic, encountered when working on a large project based in Istanbul. The reality of what he and his co-workers encountered once in situ made it expedient to treat research plans flexibly; at the same time opportunities materialised that had not been foreseeable whilst at the drafting stages for the funding application. 

Depending on where in the world the collaboration takes place, some grants may involve development assistance to countries that might be called ‘developing world’ – or grants may be treated as such by local authorities. 

Challenges of making the work count 

Since the objectives are often very different (e.g. a new exhibition room, an exhibition for the museum, which have to fit into rigid time scales, and a book/publication or ‘impact’ for the academic collaborator, equally rigid but working to a different cycle) it struck this observer that the full realisation of all and any of the potential benefits may be difficult to manage. Short-term contacts for research staff supporting a large-scale project will mean that they disappear and will be busy with the next short-term project, unable to contribute to post-project legacy analysis. 


Whilst the over-riding impression was of how challenging collaborative work with the museum sector can be, it was also clear that these do not outweigh the rewards for all parties concerned. The work had been life-changing for all concerned in at least some of the projects; quite possibly because everybody had been forced to go outside their comfort zone to make it happen in the end. 

Professor Whitehead’s slides are available on the History UK website (see below). Personally, his talk and those of the other plenary speakers highlighted to what extent successful collaboration can only grow out of longer term relationships between a HEI and a museum/heritage sector institution, to ensure that there is sufficient knowledge and understanding of what will work in practice. 

Event programme and additional information:

‘Chris is the co-ordinator of the EU funded project CoHERE:  The EU-funded CoHERE project, a €2.5million Horizon 2020 study into European Heritages and Identities, working with 11 other organisations across Europe.’ 

Karin Dannehl, EHS co-opted member to History UK

History UK – Looking Forward

Heather Shore – Co-convenor of History UK

heathershoreIn the last few months History UK (HUK) has undergone a few changes and it is with these in mind that I write this post, as one of the new co-convenors, along with Lucie Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores University), a long-time member of the HUK Steering Committee who stepped up to the co-convenor role in February. In the last few months we have said goodbye and thank-you to our previous co-convenors Marcus Collins and Kate Bradley, and we’ve extended our Executive. Along with the co-convenors, secretary (Daniel Grey) and treasurer (Richard Hawkins), we are very pleased to welcome our Media Officer (Jamie Wood) and Education Officer (Peter D’Sena).

In our last two blog posts, participants in the Academic Boot camp (held in May) and the New to Teaching event (held in September) wrote about their experiences and the benefits that they gained from attending these events. We hope that the events that we are currently planning will provide similar opportunities and benefits for historians, irrespective of whatever stages of their career they are at.

The first event will take place on the 22nd March at Liverpool John Moores University. HUK is very pleased to welcome the Digital History Lab Roadshow to a joint event between HUK and LJMU. We have a great line-up of speakers including, James Barker (Sussex), Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill), Claire Taylor (Liverpool) and Joanna Taylor (Lancaster) talking about their digital humanities projects. On the 20th May, we will be hosting our very successful Academic Boot Camp at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) again.

In the spring we will be collaborating with History Lab Plus on another event at the IHR, Life After PhD. History Lab Plus have run this successful event for the last few years, exploring the burning questions that postgraduates finishing their PhDs, and those who have recently completed, have in mind. In previous years the event has explored: the transition from PhD, getting grants, getting published and careers outside academia. Limited bursaries will be available for those travelling from outside the South-east (more information will be available soon). In September we will be collaborating with the IHR and the Royal Historical Society, to host the annual New to Teaching event, at the IHR, and aimed at recent graduates. Participants at this one-day event will develop their understanding of innovations in teaching and learning, curriculum design, assessment and feedback, quality assurance, teaching seminar groups, using digital technology in the undergraduate classroom and preparing for the academic job market.

History UK Steering Committee members will be participating in these events, and we very much look forward to a busy few months ahead, and to planning further events for the future. In particular, we are gearing up for our Autumn 2017 Plenary, which, this year, will focus on the theme of collaboration – in research, in funding, across disciplines and across the sector. Do please feel free to contact us if you want any information on any of these forthcoming events, or if there are other ways in which History UK might be involved in supporting historians in UK Higher Education.

Heather Shore (Leeds Beckett University)