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Getting Medieval!

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Overview

Who: Involving Cardiff University’s School of History and Archaeology & Religion, Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning, Cardiff & the Vale of Glamorgan Welsh for Adults Centre, the Vale of Glamorgan Adult Learning Network & Cosmeston Medieval Village (Vale of Glamorgan Council)

What: A collaborative one-day informal learning and community engagement event

Why: This showed aspects of medieval society to celebrate Adult Learners' Week, held at Cosmeston, a reconstructed medieval village near Cardiff

Where: Cardiff

When: Saturday 22nd May 2010

Project descriptionTwo budding scribes get some hands-on experience of writing a medieval charter with medieval historian Dr Bill Aird.

'Getting Medieval' was a one-day collaborative informal learning event to celebrate Adult Learners' Week held at Cosmeston Medieval Village on Saturday 22nd May 2010. In accord with the ethos and principles of Adult Learners week and the Welsh Assembly Heritage Minister’s recently published strategy for the Welsh Historic Environment, 'Getting Medieval' was a heritage-based educational partnership between a number of learning providers, including Cardiff University’s School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning, Cardiff & the Vale of Glamorgan Welsh for Adults Centre, the Vale of Glamorgan Adult Learning Network & Cosmeston Medieval Village (Vale of Glamorgan Council). See here for more information about our partners and background of Adult Learners’ Week (PDF 361kb).

'Getting Medieval' consisted of a variety of activities and workshops, themed on the medieval context and held on site at Cosmeston. These activities were designed to provide a series of family-centred, informal and enjoyable educational tasters in subjects such as history, archaeology, creative writing, music, languages, science and the environment. They were delivered by a combination of lecturers, tutors, staff, postgraduates and undergraduate students from all of the stakeholders involved.

Purpose

'Getting Medieval' key objectives:

  • To provide a series of family-centred, informal and enjoyable educational tasters in a variety of disciplines with tangible learning outcomes
  • To promote interest in, and provide information about, adult education at HE and other educational levels.
  • To break down barriers to Higher Education and facilitate widening access to formal learning progression routes including the launch of the Exploring the Past Foundation Pathway
  • To instil adults, young people and children from a variety of backgrounds with a greater awareness of the medieval past
  • To strengthen existing collaborative partnerships and create new enduring networks and partnerships between learning providers
  • To provide undergraduates and postgraduates with skills and experience in relation to community engagement and informal learning delivery
  • To promote Cosmeston medieval village and instil a heightened sense of place in relation to this living heritage site.

 pots made by members of the public drying in the warm afternoon sunshine. Pottery workshop conducted by postgraduates Sarah Doherty &amp; Yiannis Smyrnaios.

“Who we are….” : Pots made by members of the public drying in the warm afternoon sunshine. Pottery workshop conducted by postgraduates Sarah Doherty & Yiannis Smyrnaios

Results and outcome

What worked well

  • A collective assertion from all concerned that 'Getting Medieval' should become an annual adult learners' week event and involve more partners and contributors
  • That the event had fostered new collaborative partnerships both within Cardiff University and, more broadly, between learning providers in the Vale of Glamorgan including Cardiff University representation on the committee of the Vale Adult Learning Network
  • That there is a keen desire amongst the postgraduate and undergraduate community in SHARE to be involved in community engagement initiatives which can provide much needed public relations experience and broader employability skills
  • Organising and coordinating 'Getting Medieval' involved a lot of work. Yet the successful nature of the event and subsequent constructive feedback has yielded significant dividends in terms of experience and insights into informal learning and community engagement initiatives; in terms of nurturing partnerships with other learning providers; in terms of the developing skills of postgraduate and undergraduate students and, perhaps most importantly, in provoking and inspiring visitors to get involved with learning activities on the day
  • As an event designed to instil adults, young people and children from a variety of backgrounds with a greater awareness of the medieval past, 'Getting Medieval' was a huge success. This was in no small part to the huge effort and commitment of all contributors and volunteers. My heartfelt thanks also go out to Nick Coles, the village manager at Cosmeston, and all his staff who handed us the keys to the village and assisted in every way that they could

"It was very interesting, intriguing and useful. It gave lots of extra knowledge and was great to learn and know how medieval peasants lived. Thank you so much, it ‘s a great idea, people should know their history." Visitor

"The informal approach to the public gets a positive response, people feel comfortable to take part, ask questions. Good way of overcoming negative image of university courses as 'dry' and 'academic', and lecturers as stuffy aloof academics!" Amanda Rackstraw Lifelong Learning Lecturer

"Having to draw people into the event was a good way of building confidence in talking to strangers.  It is also worthwhile to talk about what you are studying to people who know nothing about it, so you can pass your interests onto them….The people who I spoke to on the day seemed to enjoy the experience and were glad they came along." Rhian Harris MA Postgraduate

A report of the evaluation (PDF 1.98MB) of the event includes detailed reflective comments on the activities and feedback from both contributors and participants in the day.

Please see report for full set of outcomes.

What didn't work well

  • Clearly not all the key objectives were achieved. As an event designed specifically to promote interest in adult education at HE and other educational levels, 'Getting Medieval' was, at best, only partially successful. There are things we could have done better and areas where we could have made clearer the links between informal and formal learning. Such issues require further serous consideration as we attempt to facilitate widening access in these difficult economic times. The importance of lifelong learning and of linking meaningful yet accessible progression routes with such informal learning initiatives will be crucial. The launch of the Exploring the Past Foundation Pathway at 'Getting Medieval' is an encouraging step in this direction
  • Informal learning events such as 'Getting Medieval' are notoriously difficult to evaluate, evidencing a clear link between such informal learning and meaningful formal progression is even harder. At 'Getting Medieval' only one visitor was immediately inspired to register a very clear intent to embark on the Exploring the Past Foundation Pathway – but perhaps that one was enough!

Find out more about the reflections derived from an evaluation of the strengths & weaknesses of the event and from feedback from contributors and students: Improving Evaluation Strategies 

Resources required

Please see full report.

Top tips

  1. Involve your undergraduate and postgraduate students in engagement events and projects. This provides them with excellent transferable and employability skills, plus they are naturals at public engagement. They are your best asset!
  2. Make sure that you have a range of imaginative evaluation techniques built into your event or project from the outset
  3. Assemble a team you can rely on – don’t try and micro-manage!

Contact

Name: Dr David Wyatt

Name of organisation: Cardiff School of History

Email: WyattD1@Cardiff.ac.uk

Telephone: 02920 870404