A passion for communicating the thrill of the ‘dig’ and for uncovering evidence of lives long gone is what inspires archaeologist Dr Carenza Lewis. Dr Lewis endeavours to raise educational aspirations among schoolchildren through involvement in excavation – a venture that is unearthing new information on rural medieval settlements.
Speaking at a recent seminar hosted by the Cambridge Assessment Network, Dr Lewis explained how a chance conversation in 2008 set in train an unlikely collaboration between Cambridge Assessment's Assessment Research & Development Division and ACA (Access Cambridge Archaeology), an outreach unit of the University of Cambridge Department of Archaeology.
The initial aim was to see whether it would be possible to gain formal recognition from OCR of ACA's 'HEFA' extended learning programme involving archaeological excavation, which would enhance and embed its value to pupils, schools, HE institutions and ACA.
It rapidly became clear that the way to achieve this was through refining the assessment of school pupils' performance on the HEFA courses in order to give the full range of assessments more validity. Two particular challenges were inherent in this: Firstly, how to develop a valid assessment model for an extra-curricular activity whose greatest asset was the opportunity it provided for pupils to rise to the challenge of doing something difficult, new and different for its own sake and as a release from the grind of constant assessment within the curriculum. Secondly, how to assess 'soft' transferable skills such as team-working and creative thinking in ways that (a) would be valid and (b) could be scaled up, in an activity that required high staff-pupil ratios.
The collaboration has been highly rewarding for all concerned, and has developed thinking in areas of wider relevance.