David Wyatt - Lecturer in Early Medieval History

Transcript of talk with minor revisions

My name is David Wyatt, I’m a historian, a medieval historian but I’m also involved as a committee outreach coordinator for the school of history and archaeology at Cardiff. I am kind of from a bit further down the food chain to some extent but I have also only managed to jot this down on the train, on the way down so just bare with me if it’s a little unstructured and in reaction to what Xerxes and Sally have said.  Personally I have worked with a big national museum, the National Museum of Wales and small museums such as the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery and Cossington Medieval Village. I have been quite interested and have found the dialogue to be very positive and also that museums are very interested in getting involved with what we do in the University and that we do actually spark off each other quite a lot. I think the key things that we have got in common and there are quite a number of key things, and especially in the Welsh contacts, we are all working to some extent to wag directives on heritage as probably other colleagues are and the rest of the country are.

Obviously there’s a funding element, were all chasing money at the moment so working in partnership is very important. But there’s a much more fundamental thing and I think that seems to be driving both museums and Higher Education Institutions, it’s ways in which we can get to non traditional hard to reach groups, communities who don’t normally engage and that’s something that I think that both sets of institutions have a lot to learn on, and have a lot to share experience on as well.  Along with that go issues of widening access, issues of social cohesion and the value of the research to wider society. When I say impact I don’t mean in a REF sense. I mean it in a broader, if you like, cultural and education sense as well. Which brings me to the point of education and what Xerxes was saying about evaluation, being really really important.

This is where I am really interested because my background is in lifelong learning and I have recently set up a new open access, very flexible, foundation pathway onto degree schemes in Cardiff. And what I am interested in is the ways in which we can connect up those informal learning, if you like, - looking at the learning escalator is its term - and trying to do things at lots of different levels, so then we can draw people in over time, from the family fun days through to the more stimulating and perhaps onto educational pathways. There is actually a UALL (University Association of Lifelong Learning) group in Wales which is looking at informal learning and how that has actually been very under resourced in terms of the research that has been done on informal learning and the value of informal learning and experiential learning which I think Xerxes referred to as well as being very, very important. So I am very interested in that kind of thing, so we have been trying lots of different strategies in sharing good practice with colleagues about the ways we capture evaluation. 

I would say for Higher Education Institutions one of the fundamental things that I think I have been finding, and my colleagues have been finding, is the involvement of our students and our postgraduate student body within this is absolutely crucial to doing it really well. We try lots of different strategies, we have gone away obviously from the old forms and that sort of rubbish. We are very much focusing on things like video diarying which is quite similar to something that Xerxes was talking about. We actually talk to people and you get their experiences and you record it; you get your students to talk to them because they’re much better at that kind of engagement work and draw out how things have affected people. Not only what they have learnt but how experientially the experiences change them. Alongside that you have photograph evidence, perhaps audio interviews, perhaps even using social networks and online stuff but also we are interested in hands on things. Getting people to actually do stuff, embedding participation and practice within the projects and events that we do, getting people to make medieval pots, getting people to draw their ideal animals with the future animals project which Jackie is going to talk about later. A lot of that obviously we have drawn by experience from our colleagues in museums and that’s been very valuable I think as well. So finally I guess I’ll just say what I am sort of interested in is this cultural shift that Sally was talking about within Higher Education Institutions where we really need to place this kind of work and I’m always loath to use (the term) public engagement against community engagement.

There are so many different layers to this I think and public engagement and community engagement to me are two very different things. Engagement at the heart because that will be so important for our students going forward and we need to think about students now rather than just academics getting involved and thinking about funding. This needs to be a cultural shift within our curriculum. We need to embed engagement and these heritage issues within our curriculum more firmly, and they are at some places but less so in others. So that we actually have the degree schemes and post graduate schemes built around this which gives our students employability and bring on the next generation which is where the changes are going to come from I think.