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Belinda Hager

Associate Metalwork Tutor, West Dean College
‘Communication and Teaching Skills in Conservation and Science‘, ICCROM Rome July 2015 

This two-week course was attended by 16 conservation educators from around the world, whose levels of experience ranged from mine, at just 4 years teaching experience, to some people who were heads of schools, seeking to refresh their teaching methods. The course was structured in such a way that we, the participants, learned new ways of teaching by being the students in a range of exercises that ultimately demonstrated different modes of teaching and facilitating learning.

The range of modalities included one-to-one exchanges of skills, presentations, field trips, video, and many group exercises and discussions. Exercises were mostly held in a teaching room, while others were held in the lab. Some took place outside, like a ‘new technologies’ session, which was held on the Tiber island, or in other venues, as happened one evening, when we were shown by non-English speaking chefs how to make a pizza in a pizzeria.

Each evening’s activities included a ‘harvesting’ session, which called for pre-arranged groups to share their opinions and observations about the day. There were many opportunities, like that, to reflect on what had been taught, what had been learned, and how effective the experience had been.

I went with the express purpose of workshopping how to teach ethics. I made a presentation to the group outlining how I currently teach, and asking for ideas on how to extend my range of teaching methods. Much of the course had been of value in that quest already, but people were open and generous with their offers to share their experiences with me.

The course was incredibly intensive, with little time off, but the group worked well together and each participant had gone with the same attitude of wanting to make the most of the experience. For me, being shown a wider range of ways to really practically facilitate learning was invaluable; it’s given me a skill set that I can adapt and develop to my working situation. I’ve come back fired up and keen to try out what I’ve learned. I feel confident that my students will benefit enormously from my having attended the course. I felt incredibly lucky to have been part of such an event, and have made valuable contacts from around the world.