As someone who has taught in a number of universities in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, I regularly stand in front of a class at the beginning of a course, and ask the students what they know. Have they heard of 'Central Place Theory', or 'World Economies', and how much do they know about them? Have my colleagues dealt with them in depth in courses entitled 'Theory' or have they merely been touched upon under 'The History of Archaeological Research'? One thing that is emerging as many of us search back through the history of our subject is how much knowledge has been lost, and then has to be rediscovered (e.g. Fischer and Kristiansen 2002), often simply because one set of ideas has gone out of fashion as a new paradigm comes to the fore, or simply because academic careers can be based on teaching something new, contrasting with what one's professors taught rather than teaching what the previous generation did. Though I regularly discuss with my colleagues the general outline of our courses, and more general problems like 'are our students capable of taking notes in lectures?', we tend to deal in general terms like 'Theory', 'Excavation Methods', the 'British Neolithic'; we do not have a tick list to ensure that everything that we might like our students to know is covered in the course and in the depth required, or that there is not duplication, or that all our students will acquire the necessary knowledge with the multiplicity of options and degree course, or that, other in general terms, it appears in a logical order. The overall pattern is there, but the more detailed interlocking of apparently disparate courses may not be adequately covered, but it is something that we will all have to deal with in the light of the QAA Benchmarking document (QAA 2000; Johnson 2001).

In fact we encounter the same problems throughout the whole of our profession - what exactly will one learn on a field course or a short course and to what level; what exactly does one need to know to obtain the post one wants; what exactly are employers looking for in their next appointment. I must, however, point out that what I am proposing is merely a descriptive tool; it brings with it no compulsion about the value or necessity of teaching or learning what is being described. It is no national curriculum or occupational standard; it merely describes content. Equally it is something of world-wide application; in the European Union professional qualifications from one country are now legally accepted in every other country, but what do we know about the knowledge and training of individual archaeologists across Britain let alone those from elsewhere in Europe, or of the requirements of employers in other countries?

In a previous article I outlined an overall strategy for training and education in Britain (Collis 2000) which forms the basis for developments over the next few years both for the Institute of Field Archaeologists (cf. Bishop et al. 1999), and also for the Archaeology Training Forum (ATF). That paper was not meant as a blueprint, but as a discussion paper which will need modification and amplification as we progress. In this article I wish to develop my thoughts on the question of recording and defining the skills and knowledge that we acquire throughout our professional (and amateur) careers, and which makes us competent to carry out our various roles within the field of archaeology. I shall draw my examples mainly from the British experience, partly because I am more familiar with it, but also because I think we are probably further down the road in developing solutions than most other countries, though we are beginning to discuss this across Europe (Collis forthcoming), mainly through the newly established Education and Training Committee of the European Association of Archaeologists, and also with colleagues in the USA who are grappling with similar problems (Bender and Smith 2000; Joseph Schuldenrein, pers. comm. 2002 to the Learning and Training Support Network (LTSN) for Archaeology).


© Internet Archaeology URL:
Last updated: Mon Jul 29 2002