I had the pleasure of working with 9 heritage professionals on Wednesday 7th September at thestudio in Birmingham on a research workshop exploring both a novel data collection methodology and the relevance of a particular educational model to the heritage sector. I have to say that thestudio is a great venue. Accessible, well equipped, well-lit and easy to book and use. It’s a commercial venue so not inexpensive but I figured that since all my participants were doing so for free, the least I could do was to ensure they were provided with a hot lunch and ample supplies of muffins, teas and coffees.
As a research method it also had the advantage of me not requiring to organize one-on-one interview-style meetings with each individual, paying to travel (and possibly stay over) to wherever they were based. It also ensured that individuals were away from their institutions, working with others, engaged in a professional dialogue as they annotated a large version of learning model. Working in three groups of three, each table annotated a single diagram, recording their existing institutional practices against the elements of the learning model. After lunch, the same teams did the same exercise with the focus of future activity. I borrowed a technique from World-Café workshops I’ve run before where between sessions the teams rotate and can see how other teams have responded.
There is a lot of data to go through, as I plan to convert people’s handwritten annotations into ‘type’. I’m looking forward to going through the responses and looking for any emergent patterns.
I’m embarking on a research process that will look at institutional change and personal transformation amongst heritage educators. It is likely to be a four-year process that will explore the current state of education across the heritage sector in the UK, the influences on educators in this unique and colourful sector, and the impact that digital heritage, digital technologies, and digital epistemologies are having on individuals and their practice. Identity transformation is a difficult thing to measure; there are so many variables, so many factors that can impact on individuals in so many unique and personal ways. This fascinating field, one in which only an interdisciplinary perspective, and non-judgemental and open-minded approach, and the willingness of subjects to share, is likely to yield considerable insights. The extent to which Heritage Education can be analysed through a ‘Communities of Practice’ approach, through the use of interpretive repertoires, or through the theoretical lenses of transformative learning or activity theory, is yet to be seen. I look forward to sharing this research through this online space at a hearing the views of others. As a doctoral program it will have its own pace, its own problems, challenges, obstacles, boundaries and opportunities. But it seems appropriate that work looking at how digital spaces, new epistemologies, new models of interprofessional practice and emerging expectations of our heritage institutions might be researched effectively should be shared as much as possible along the way.