News and Views

Call for papers: Assessment in History – Reassessing the purpose and future of assessment in the study of history

Assessment in History – Reassessing the purpose and future of assessment in the study of history

LOCATION: Online

DATE: 23 May 2022 (pending UCU strike dates)

OUTLINE: This event, organised by History UK, is designed to reassess the purpose and future of assessment in history. Assessment is a fundamental part of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, but what role does (and should) assessment play in the study of history in Higher Education? And how does this connect with history assessment in secondary schools and the skills required by a range of employers and careers? This event will be an opportunity to address these questions. Case studies will be used to explore how and why different types of assessment are being used in history degrees. Alongside more traditional forms of assessment such as essays and exams, more innovative approaches to assessment are emerging which present opportunities and challenges.

Contributions on any aspect of assessment in the history curriculum are invited. We would particularly encourage participants to think about:

  • The purpose and future of assessment in history UG and PG degrees
  • Assessment and inclusivity
  • Digital assessment
  • Creative assessment
  • Practice-based assessment
  • Assessment for Learning
  • Feedback/Feed-Forward
  • History assessment in secondary schools
  • Assessment and Employability
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on assessment

We welcome proposals for panels or papers that address the theme of assessment in history degrees. Proposals can take the form of individual papers (10 mins), panels (three to four papers on a related theme) or interactive workshops (30 mins). Participants will be invited to contribute to a publication on this theme.

To submit your proposal, please send a short abstract (upto 200 words in the case of an individua paper, upto 500 for a panel) to Dr Sarah Holland (sarah.holland@nottingham.ac.uk) by 12th April 2022.

History UK statement on cuts to History and other disciplines at Goldsmiths

History UK is shocked and concerned at Goldsmiths, University of London’s destructive plans to impose mass redundancies amongst academic and professional staff in the departments of History and English & Creative Writing. These proposals not only threaten the future of these world-renowned departments and the unique identity of Goldsmiths as an institution of learning and innovative teaching. They also constitute an attack on underrepresented histories and the accessibility of History and English as disciplines, at a time when our world needs them more than ever.

Goldsmiths currently teaches the only MA in Queer History in the world and was the first institution to launch an MA programme in Black British History in 2020. These, and other pioneering programmes have sustained Goldsmiths’ identity as a world-leading centre for progressive, creative and critical education with a strong commitment to social justice. To impose swingeing cuts on such dynamic and socially vital departments is an act of cultural vandalism.

The diversity of Goldsmiths’ student body is unique and this cohort and the potentially larger cohorts to follow must have continued access to the teaching of the world-leading academics currently working in the Department of History. Given that many other universities are currently working to secure expertise in these areas following the Black Lives Matter movement and increased awareness of the impact of historical health inequalities during the pandemic, it is remarkably short-sighted for Goldsmiths to treat the irreplaceable experts in these areas as disposable. Such a move would lead to lasting reputational damage and is likely to limit any possibility of return to the secure pre-2020 financial position.

Goldsmiths’ Civic University Agreement states its commitment to working to improve the lives of people in the locality. Two out of five Lewisham residents are from a black or minority ethnic background, while Lewisham is one of the most deprived local authority areas in England. Two of the four priority areas in the agreement are ‘economic prosperity, jobs and growth’, and ‘culture, health and wellbeing’. The socially aware and engaged Department of History makes invaluable contributions to these priority areas: running an Integrated (Foundation Year) degree that supports socio-economically disadvantaged students to return to study; partnering with cultural institutions in London and beyond to provide these students with work placements; and working with schools and community research projects as well as national bodies to further equality of opportunity and aspiration for diverse, and often marginalised, groups. The cuts will make it impossible for the Department of History to continue this work, and it is difficult to see how the University can claim to uphold its commitment to the Civic University Agreement while undermining on-the-ground achievements in this way.

The proposed cuts also threaten scholars from groups that are severely underrepresented and/or marginalised in the UK historical profession. The Royal Historical Society Report on Race, Ethnicity, and Equality found that among UK-national staff, 96.1% of university historians are white, a figure higher than in most other subjects, while under-representation is particularly stark for Black historians. Key recommendations from the Royal Historical Society LGBT+ Report included deepening coverage of LGBT+ history throughout the curriculum, and integrating LGBT+ histories into core survey modules. The Department of History at Goldsmiths scores exceptionally well in both these areas. The proposed cuts will undermine the University’s stated commitment to equality and diversity as a member of the Equality Challenge Unit and a Stonewall Equality and Diversity Champion. They are also at odds with many of the University’s own core Equality Objectives 2017-21.

Contrary to the selective use of metrics by those proposing the cuts at Goldsmiths, which draw on out-of-date NSS results from 2020, the latest figures underscore the quality of teaching in the Department of History. For instance, satisfaction with teaching increased from 75% in 2020 to 90% in 2021, a strong increase given that the average across all subjects and institutions in 2021 was 80%. Overall satisfaction, learning opportunities, assessment and feedback, and academic support all also saw significant increases from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, History was up in all measures except one. Clearly the subject is on a rising trajectory, not failing, and to suggest otherwise is a flagrant misrepresentation of the metrics so cherished by university management.

Moves to cut History and other subjects at Goldsmiths have occasioned widespread condemnation from the academic community, including an open letter currently circulating to protest these redundancies with 3500 signatories and rising (see also a recent RHS blog post). History UK adds its voice to the rising chorus demanding that Goldsmiths rethink these proposed cuts and work to develop long-term strategies to secure these world-leading areas of research and teaching.

Sharing research on social media: how do we engage public audiences online? A History Lab+ event

Sharing historical research on social media has become increasingly prevalent, particularly over the past two years with the shift of much scholarly life to online fora. Indeed, it is now something many historians are expected to undertake, either as individual researchers or as part of public engagement and impact. In this event, our two expert speakers will reflect on their own experiences, outlining the challenges, benefits, and issues raised by sharing content via social media.

Joe Vaughan is Digital Editor and social media manager at The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL, Twitter). By producing highly engaging social media content about the museum’s collections, he has brought the history of rural England and its people to a global online audience. His work has received recognition and praise by international media, including The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. He lives and works in Reading.

Dr Sarah Hall is Public Engagement and Events Officer for the AboutFace Project, based in the Department of History at the University of York. She has established a social media and website presence for the project, which researches the emotional and cultural history of face transplants. Sarah is also the curator of a new project connected to AboutFace, the Museum of Faces, a virtual museum tackling social issues pertaining to the face. While navigating the challenges of dealing with sensitive topics on social media, Sarah is a passionate advocate for knowledge exchange in public engagement, and prioritises the development of creative strategies for developing this on social platforms.

When: 3 – 4pm, Wednesday 22nd September
Where: The event will take place over Zoom

Please register for the event here.

For further information contact: elizabeth.spencer@york.ac.uk

2021 Academic Job Boot Camp

Academic Job Boot Camp – Monday 6th September 2021, online event.

History UK is pleased to be running the Academic Job Boot Camp again this year, following a forced hiatus in 2020. All early career historians are encouraged to apply, with preference being given to those who have already completed or submitted their PhDs.

  • Are you thinking about applying for your first lectureship in history?
  • Submitting applications and never hearing back?
  • Wishing you could have a ‘test run’ for job applications and interviews?

The Academic Job Boot Camp is a free half-day event for early career historians, sponsored by History UK and supported by History Lab Plus. It will help you to structure your academic CV, hone your cover letter, rehearse your job presentation, and undergo a mock interview, as well as demystifying some of the processes around academic recruitment. The experience, feedback, and advice that you receive at the event is intended to improve your chances the next time you apply for an academic job.

How will the boot camp work?

This event simulates all stages of the job application process, up to and including being interviewed as a shortlisted candidate. You will be interviewed by experienced academics drawn from universities nationwide. You will also deliver a job presentation to other early career historians.

You will receive feedback on your academic CV and cover letter, interview, and presentation. You will also have the opportunity to observe how others approach the job application process, providing peer feedback and support. The event will end with a roundtable discussion, offering the chance to ask questions of academics who have been involved in university recruitment – as well as chatting and networking with others in similar positions to you.

Due to the pandemic, in 2021 this event will take place entirely online. However, many universities were already moving towards introducing online elements to the job application process before the pandemic, so experience with this kind of format is likely to be useful in the future.

You can read posts about the job boot camps from previous years here, here, here and here.

 

Outline Itinerary (all events to take place online, exact timings TBC):

1-1.15: Welcome.

An introduction to the event and History UK from Simon Peplow, Early Career Researcher representative for History UK.

1.15-3.45: Presentation or Job Interviews. 

During the afternoon you will be asked to participate in four activities:

  1. a 30-minute interview; you will be informed of the exact time of your interview on the day.
  2. observe a 30-minute interview; the time of this will also be made clear to you on the day.
  3. give a 5-minute presentation, followed by 3-4 minutes of questions; led by an experienced academic in front of other early career historians who will provide written feedback.
  4. observe presentations from other attendees, ask questions and provide written feedback.

3.45-4.00: Break.

(As an online event, the obligatory tea/coffee break will unfortunately have to be self-catered!)

4.00-5.00: Roundtable discussion and advice for navigating the academic job market.

 

This online event is free and sponsored by History UK and History Lab Plus.

To participate, you will need to apply for an imaginary lectureship in a real history programme. Please read the job advert for the Imaginary Lectureship in History here https://bit.ly/3iqVhWn, then submit a letter of application and academic CV to Simon Peplow (Simon.Peplow@warwick.ac.uk). Please also contact Simon if you have any questions.

The deadline for your application is noon on Friday 20th August 2021.
The online event will take place on Monday 6th September 2021.

 

Reflections on the Research Resilience event

This post is written by Caroline Sampson, Development Manager: National and Networks, The National Archives.

The National Archives’ (TNA) Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP) and History UK came together recently in a Research Resilience event to look at emerging practices to support academic research and researchers wishing to use archives.  While the disruption caused by the pandemic has clearly shone a spotlight on the barriers caused by service closures, restricted access and so forth, it is clear that some of these obstacles don’t surface solely during a global emergency, but can beleaguer the work of researchers on an everyday level too.

While it was great to hear the experiences of those who shared the work they have been doing over the last 18 months or so to try out creative new ways of facilitating research, it’s clear that this is part of an ongoing journey to explore exactly what barriers academic researchers experience and what opportunities there are to address these.  What the pandemic has done is raise awareness of the extent of the difficulties and provided a testbed for creative solutions.

Front cover of the Guide to Collaboration for Archives and Higher Education (2018)

To make real headway with this, it is vitally important to bring academics and archivists together so that each group can understand the needs and challenges that the other faces.  HEAP has attempted to do this in a variety of different ways but I’m left with a feeling that we have never quite managed to pull this off.  You might find it useful to have a look at the Guide to Collaboration for Archives and Higher Education that TNA and History UK co-created in 2018.

If archivists don’t have a good understanding of the problems researchers are experiencing and of the changes that they would like to see, their attempts to redesign workflows will fall short of what’s needed.  If researchers haven’t understood where the pinch points and constraints lie for archivists, they can’t use their voice to advocate for resources to bring about change.

So, a genuine call to arms!  How can we get these conversations really working and get the right people talking to each other?  If you have any thoughts, send them to me at caroline.sampson@nationalarchives.gov.uk

In the meantime, I thought it would be useful to share links to interesting resources and articles to read.

Digital Archive Learning Exchange (DALE)

The archivists amongst you might enjoy looking back at some of the events TNA’s DALE network have put on since the start of the pandemic.  DALE was set up to support archivists as they explore digital challenges, build capacity and improve digital skills across the sector.  Anyone is welcome to sign up for DALE events.

‘This time, it’s on the house’ – a webinar exploring how a range of services have continued to reach audiences during the pandemic

‘Strictly on the Download’ – digital preservation in action’: a webinar exploring how services are utilising digital preservation tools and resources to take next steps in delivering effective and high quality projects, and to think about the needs of a new generation of digital researchers.

‘Engage! Producing outstanding digital resources’ – The event included sessions on accessibility, demonstrating impact, developing online content for children, and running a remote volunteering project.

TNA blogs and articles

TNA has also shared a number of blogs that showcase different ways of working during the pandemic.  Not all relate to academic research but the learning and experimentation may well prove transferable and / or spark ideas for new models of service delivery.

Training and skills development

Many of you will be familiar with this already but why not check out the postgraduate archival skills training?

It really does feel as if we are on the cusp of bringing about one of those “once in a generation” shifts in how we redefine the interface between archives and research.  Over to you!  What should it look like?  How do we persuade decision-makers and funders to sign up?  What do we do next?