Best Practice in Student Learning

First, while I have long used active learning and project-based activities in lab and field archaeology, only recently have I opted to "let go" and give the students more agency in the learning experience. By that, I am referring to defaulting to having the students present a series of PowerPoint-based case studies or site reports, typically about 4 per term. Each is construed as based on existing Internet content and research, and is generally limited to about to 5 minutes each. Students thereby become the presenters, and the primary coordinators of that course-related content presented during the term, and as such, my role becomes that of the content specialist and commentator on that content collected and presented by the students.

Second, rather than default to the many written assignments that I have typically required in the past, I have now taken to provisioning the option of presenting their research and studies in either written, oral, or artistic formats and media. This has provided students with a good deal of control over that content actually presented or considered in each of my classes, which thereby take on the character of a graduate student seminar. This past semester, when I fully integrated an iLearn web-based syllabus and resources, and then opted to have students present a minimum of 4 case studies, and a final project consisting of either a written, oral, and or artistic production or exhibit, I had my best end of term reviews ever. A number of students wrote or informed me or others quite directly that "this was the best class that I've ever taken," or "I really like the seminar format," or "I really enjoyed being able to do the site reports."

Finally, based on our discussions in this group, one idea that has come to mind is that of integrating tours based on the perspectives and lives of individual and authentic historical characters whose lives and perspectives are reformulated for a museum tour format. In this way, in the California missions, for instance, each student, teacher, or visitor, can select the character, and thereby, historical perspective, that suits them or their interests. Also, the idea of holding on-site teacher orientations prior to school visits would go far in providing teachers with those tools that will make for far better results and learning through historic sites tours and their often unwieldy or problemmatized historical narratives.

Notes: Students might produce a 500 word "artist statement" that responds to or elaborates upon the particular photographs or artistic productions prepared so as to fulfill the final term project.

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