Archaeology in Senior Schools: Perceptions and Possibilities

01st December 2006

Neil Davies

MA, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, February 2005

This thesis proposes and describes a curriculum plan featuring archaeology as a discrete subject for Year 11 and 12 students in the public education system of South Australia in particular, but also for Australia in general. It seeks to demonstrate the wider value of archaeology, justifies its inclusion in the school curriculum and presents an archaeology curriculum that reflects developments in modern teaching methods. This is achieved through two basic questions: whether archaeology should be included as a discrete part of the senior secondary curriculum, particularly in South Australian public schools; and whether an archaeology curriculum can be constructed along the lines of particular pedagogical or organisational styles.

Opening chapters present historical and social outlines of archaeology, demonstrating archaeology’s long history of relevance to society, how it has developed an extensive philosophy and system of theory, and why it represents a valuable addition to the curriculum as an area of study in its own right. The archaeology and anthropology of Australia is presented with a substantial historical underpinning deriving from the wider world situation. Knowledge and concepts deriving from Australian archaeology are shown to be of great current social relevance, making archaeology and anthropology particularly valuable subjects of study. The concept of heritage is considered together with its impact on society and any educational factors.

Having established archaeology as a worthwhile learning area, the second research question, concerning particular pedagogical or organisational styles, is the subject of later chapters. The idea of balance with respect to curriculums, in this case taken to mean the relationship between the aims and intentions of the teacher, as against the result in terms of not only what has been learned, but whether the knowledge acquired is useful to the learner, is examined in some detail. Educational philosophies are taken as starting points, establishing archaeology as a valid domain of learning, possessing exterior tests of truth and veracity, and also contributing to the growth of the rational mind.

Middle chapters demonstrate that archaeology has a theoretical basis and research methodology that seems particularly suited to Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as an appropriate and effective pedagogy. This teaching approach is examined in detail and an example is followed through to illustrate the principle. Possibilities for cross-curricular treatment for archaeology are explored. Principles and possibilities of outcomes-directed assessment methods are considered for their own value and for their possible correspondence with structuralist learning approaches.

The penultimate chapter of the thesis presents a curriculum document describing a course of archaeology intended for a Stage I South Australian Certificate of Education subject. It is modelled along more or less conventional lines and brings together the findings of the bulk of the thesis. Finally, some conclusions and recommendations in respect to findings of the thesis are set down, in particular highlighting the shortage of Australian learning material, especially the web-based material so valuable to the PBL approach.

Neil Davies
Archaeology in Senior Schools: Perceptions and Possibilities
December 2006
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Thesis Abstracts
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