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Head of Department, and
Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology
Prof Cain's research interests include the history of evolutionary studies, Darwin and Darwinism, history of science in London, history of natural history and natural history films.
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Site visits and walking tours in history of science
Abstracts from a session at BSHS annual conference, Exeter, July 2011. The purpose of this session was to discuss the value of these activities in the discipline, both research and teaching.
(link) download Exeter flyer
Talk 1: Re-treading historic fieldwork, and why it's worth the trouble
Professor Martin Rudwick
Fieldwork deserves to be recognised as one of the major sites of scientific knowledge-making, but it has had little serious historical attention in comparison with the laboratory or even the museum. 'Re-treading' historic fieldwork is in some ways equivalent to 're-staging' historic experiments, but it raises some distinctive historiographical issues. Historians have had well-founded reservations about it, because it has often been used to find out 'what is really there' in the light of 'what we now know', and to judge the perceptions and inferences of the historical actors from that presentist perspective. I shall illustrate these issues with examples from my own work on the history of 18th- and 19th-century geology, on two levels: (1) individual re-treading, when for research purposes I have tried to see specific places and features 'through the eyes' of specific geologists from the past, without imposing presentist assumptions; and (2) collective re-treading, when I have led fieldwork parties that included both historians and scientists, to try to encourage a way of seeing that combines genuinely historical insight with a recognition of real evidential constraints.
Talk 2: History on Foot: Pedagogy for Learning on the Go
Dr Joe Cain
Walking tours and site visits (WTSVs) are familiar tools in the history tutor’s bag of tricks. Yet, these tools require skilled hands. WTSVs often descend into diffuse and disrupted learning events: days off, rather than days out. Continuity is easily disrupted by the logistics of moving through complex spaces. Focus is easily challenged by distracting novelties and the demands of mere navigation. After all the effort put into planning, it’s common to find tutors leaving WTSVs feeling disappointed and ineffective.
For all their popularity, WTSVs have a primitive pedagogy. Most tutors simply fail to appreciate just how different a learning environment WTSVs are, compared with the lecture theatre or seminar room. As a result, they simply replace “chalk-and-talk” with “walk-and-talk”.
This presentation develops a specific pedagogy for WTSVs built on a foundation of three converging lines in educational and cognitive research: information processing, intelligence, and memory. What kinds of cognitive processes are highlighted in visitors during WTSVs? How do these relate to the typical activities of tour guides? What can a guide do to supplement, complement, or redirect these processes? What impediments need to be overcome to improve effectiveness towards learning outcomes? In short, how might we envision WTSVs to maximise their effectiveness as learning tools?
Talk 3: Demonstration of BSHS Travel Guide
Elizabeth (Liz) Bruton
For more than a year, some BSHS members have been building an online “Travel Guide” to locations with history-of-science stories to be told. The Guide is structured as a wiki, with contributions encouraged from local experts around the globe. In this talk, we’ll demonstrate the Guide and identify some of its key features. We’ll also discuss how the Guide might grow, how contributions might be structured, and which locations might be added.
Visit the BSHS Travel Guide:
Page last modified on 18 jul 11 09:39 by Joe Cain
Professor Joe Cain
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies