By Kathleen Dardes

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.
—Henry David Thoreau

A wise system of education will at last teach us how little man yet knows, how much he has still to learn.
—Sir John Lubbock

Over the centuries, there have been countless definitions, ideas, and opinions about education, its practice, and its mispractice. Philosophers, essayists, dramatists, assorted social commentators, and especially educators themselves have offered their wide-ranging and surprisingly mixed views on the subject of education and its perceived value. Throughout history, learning has been respected as the foundation for all manner of artistic, scientific, technological, and humanistic advancement, bringing benefit to individuals as well as to society. As the old Chinese proverb sums up: "Learning is a treasure, which accompanies its owner everywhere."

However, education—the process by which we acquire learning—has not always been assessed with such a kindly and uncritical eye. Education can take many guises, the formal and the informal. In its formal state, it can be daunting and even self-defeating, as Thoreaus remark suggests. However, Thoreau also believed strongly in the benefits of learning and understanding as essential human activities. It was the particular mode of learning—the educational process itself—that could ultimately serve or deter the attainment of understanding. At its best, education provides the compass for a free, meandering, and lifelong journey of discovery. By its very nature, education is forward looking and anticipatory—and herein, perhaps, is one of the greatest challenges for those who teach. Brian Fagan articulated the dilemma for archaeology in a recent article for Conservation (see vol. 18, no. 1). Fagan noted that although an increasing number of archaeologists in the United States pursue a form of archaeology commonly known as cultural resource management, their education is still rooted in a time when archaeology was a purely academic discipline and archaeologists were concerned largely with "survey, excavation, laboratory work, and peer-reviewed publication." Conservation, although a component of cultural resource management, still does not figure in the education of most archaeologists. This disconnect between the present and future realities of professional practice and an academic education that stems from the working contexts and experiences of the past has serious implications for both archaeology and conservation.

conservation image
Enlarge

It may be worth considering whether the example of archaeology is emblematic of the situation in other areas of heritage conservation, particularly since the field has been affected by new external pressures in recent years. In all likelihood, many of these pressures will introduce new dynamics in relationships and new changes in how we think about and practice conservation. We are already witnessing greater stakeholder access and involvement in decision making, changing expectations for use of heritage, recognition of a range of disparate and sometimes conflicting values, diminishing or changing resources, increased interdisciplinary collaboration, and the need to deal with the conservation of new materials and media—to name just a few. As a consequence, there has been a great deal of introspection and discussion among conservation professionals as to the new roles and opportunities that may await the field. The result is a growing acknowledgment of the imperative of conservation's social dimension. Ensuring that heritage is accessible, understood, and valued by the public, as well as by other professional colleagues, is increasingly critical to not only the practice but also the viability of conservation. As such, it is also increasingly critical to the teaching and learning of conservation.

How will the evolving state of conservation thought and practice be reflected in the way that conservation professionals are educated and trained? Will the learning models of the past and present be able to equip students with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes they will need for the way conservation will be practiced in 5, 10, and 20 years? It is, of course, impossible to know for certain what students will actually face in their professional lives. In fact, it may not even matter. Education must prepare people to function in an unknowable future. Education—and especially education for the professions—equips people for lifelong learning and discovery. The ever-expanding pool of knowledge within every field requires professionals to concentrate on learning how to form the right questions rather than how to simply absorb information, and to work as part of an extended team of specialists.

The most important part of teaching is to teach what it is to know.
—Simone Weil

Because it serves the future, education can be said to be at least theoretically progressive and forward looking in its purpose. Yet, academia can be notoriously conservative and resistant to change. Even so, some remarkable learning "revolutions" have occurred within the heart of academia, driven by compelling needs recognized within the realm of professional practice. The best example of this can be found in medical education, which over the course of the past two decades has witnessed far-reaching reforms.

For much of the 20th century, most medical schools followed an educational model drafted in 1910. But by the late 1970s it had become clear that this basic model did not allow teaching and learning to keep pace with the rapid and dramatic changes occurring within health care, including the expansion of medical knowledge and the blurring between the boundaries of the specific medical sciences. No student or practicing doctor could reasonably be expected to absorb the amount of information that makes up the modern body of knowledge in medicine, even within one specialty. In addition to developing the usual diagnostic, problem-solving, and other technical skills, the modern doctor must be equipped for the social dimension of medicine—understanding and interacting with patients—which is fundamental to a contemporary and holistic approach to medicine.

Educators realized that future medical practice would make new and different demands upon doctors and that their curriculum needed to reflect this expectation. The reform of the medical curriculum, already under way by the early 1980s, has led to new teaching and learning goals and methodologies. These innovations—which include problem-based learning and interdisciplinary cooperative learning—link pedagogy to the new circumstances and conditions of professional practice. Other fields—such as law, business, and public administration, to name a few—have also sought to link more closely the educational experience to the realities of professional life. Active, student-centered learning is becoming increasingly important in higher education because it allows students to develop the particular habits of thinking and behavior that characterize the profession for which they are preparing. Learning, especially for the professions, should be an active and constructive process that contextualizes technical issues and problems.

Enlarge
Enlarge Enlarge

Conservation education faces many of the same challenges that characterize education in other professions. The pedagogical solutions to these problems also have some interest and relevance to teaching and learning conservation. For this reason, the GCI researches examples of "best practices" within the educational mainstream that can be adapted to the aims of our projects—and to conservation education generally. For example, problem-based learning is one of the educational strategies that we have employed within some of our courses, adapting it to the particular audience, learning aims, and situation with which we are working. Its particular advantage as a pedagogy for conservation is the way in which it can integrate and contextualize different aspects of professional life—blending the technical, social, ethical, and other dimensions of real-life practice.

A range of factors influences the teaching approach that we may take within a project. Since the GCI works internationally, educational projects can address a range of different audiences and learning needs. The educational strategy that we may ultimately develop takes into account context, audience, and learning traditions, as well as the need for specific information and skills.

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.
—C. S. Lewis

Conservation is still fairly young as a profession, and the need for suitable education and training opportunities remains great at all levels of professional practice. Unfortunately, in many areas of the world, there are few or no opportunities for training, even at the most basic level. Over the years, organizations like the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the GCI have sought to address this situation through strategic and long-term projects that answer immediate training needs while laying the groundwork for the development of regionally based educational initiatives.

An example is Project Terra, a collaborative project of the GCI, ICCROM, and the International Centre for Earth Construction—School of Architecture of Grenoble (CRATerre—EAG). Terra encompasses both immediate and long-term strategies for educating professionals in the conservation and management of earthen architecture (including buildings, historic urban centers, and archaeological sites). An important project objective is to establish the conservation and management of earthen heritage as an area of study within university structures, recognizing that such academic "anchors" can substantially enhance both education and scholarship in this area. In the meantime, there is still an immediate need for training professionals to address conservation and management of the earthen architectural heritage. Terra has dealt with this through a series of short courses, including the Pan-American Course on the Conservation and Management of Earthen Architectural and Archaeological Heritage (known as PAT), delivered in 1996 and 1999 in Trujillo, Peru.

Enlarge Enlarge

Over a decade, the Terra partners have tested, applied, and adapted a range of new and conventional approaches to teaching earthen architecture conservation through their individual and joint educational initiatives. These approaches were linked to an understanding of the working profile of the professionals responsible for heritage and to their need to participate in a process that integrates conservation, access, education, and security with the values of a range of stakeholders. The Terra partners have developed curricula, didactic materials, and methods that reflect the blending of social, cultural, and technical aspects of earthen architectural heritage. The project has integrated problem-based learning within a training framework as a means of presenting the multidimensional aspects of earthen architecture conservation and management. (For more on Terra, see: www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/field_projects/terra/ .)

A Socrates in every classroom.
—A. Whitney Griswold, President, Yale University, on his standard for Yale faculty (1951)

Collaborations are important to the GCI's strategy of extending and strengthening the teaching of conservation within the academic environment. The Getty's partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in the development of a new program in archaeological and ethnographic conservation includes an opportunity for the GCI's education section to work with the course director to develop the pedagogical foundation for the program (see A Partnership in Education). Over the course of the next year, this collaboration will define the professional profile and expected competencies of graduates, the program's teaching and learning aims and objectives, the core curriculum, teaching strategies, evaluation mechanisms, and other defining characteristics of the program. The result will be a curriculum document that will serve as a blueprint for further course development.

In the past year, the GCI also partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Heritage of University College London (UCL), in developmental work for its new midcareer graduate course (formally titled Master of Science in the Built Environment: Sustainable Heritage), which will begin in October 2004. The collaboration addressed the curriculum and teaching objectives, which include the integration of problem-based learning to foster interdisciplinarity and the eventual use of Web-based learning to extend the course to students over a wider geographic area.

The GCI's partnership with the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage has included the joint offering of the short course Historic Buildings, Collections, and Sites: Sustainable Strategies for Conservation, Management, and Use, designed for senior-level heritage professionals. This course allowed us to investigate the potential of the Internet in extending the boundaries of traditional classroom-based learning. The course was offered in two phases. During the first phase, participants, working at their own institutions, completed a program of preparatory exercises, readings, and other work as a foundation for the second phase, which took the form of a workshop at UCL. Providing background readings and assignments, via a course Web site during the preliminary phase, made way for more active learning activities—such as discussions, exercises, and collaborative group work—during the second phase. Collaboration in learning was a major objective of the course and was key to promoting interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving among the participants.

Collaboration was also essential in the actual teaching of this course, as it has been for other projects, including Project Terra. In a course like Historic Buildings, Collections, and Sites, interdisciplinary teams of teachers bring different and sometimes competing perspectives to the classroom, challenging students to consider the various ramifications of situations in which there may be no single right answer. Collaborative teaching also gives teachers an opportunity to model cooperative behavior and problem solving in the classroom. The teamwork among teachers, which begins in the planning process, can also greatly aid the integration of ideas, information, and teaching approaches.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
—Mark Twain

In the GCI's field projects, training may occur within the framework of a multifaceted project that combines research and the testing of new conservation methodologies. Educational strategies employed within field projects are tailored to specific issues and conditions encountered within the region or countries in which we are working and may be targeted to a range of different professionals with responsibility for the conservation and management of heritage. The GCI collaborates closely with institutional partners to develop the right aims and strategies for the situation encountered, taking into account learning styles, traditions, and resources.

While field projects usually offer ideal opportunities for educational initiatives, they can also offer unique challenges. In some situations, a short course or workshop may not always provide the level or depth of training needed and so is combined with a long-term program of mentored practice that allows skills and confidence to be developed slowly and systematically. During the practice period, trainees have intermittent access to a teacher who can provide guidance and evaluation. An example of this is a GCI project that is part of a larger effort to conserve in-situ archaeological mosaics in the Mediterranean region. Begun two years ago, the project—a partnership with Tunisia's Institut National du Patrimoine (see Training in Tunisia, and Conservation, vol. 17, no. 1)—trains technicians responsible for the maintenance of in-situ archaeological mosaics in Tunisia. Training for the first group of technicians was carried out over an 18-month period through four successive campaigns, with intervening periods of assigned practical work arranged by instructors. The practical work was evaluated during successive campaigns, at which time remedial or additional teaching, if necessary, could take place.

Enlarge
Enlarge Enlarge

An upcoming phase of this project will involve the development of a site management workshop for personnel who oversee archaeological sites in Tunisia. This will facilitate the development of a supporting structure within Tunisia that will help ensure the sustainability of the technicians' maintenance efforts over time.

There is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that the way we learn throughout our lives is and will continue to be profoundly influenced by the use of digital media, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and devices and systems yet to be developed.
—Charles M. Vest
President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Disturbing the Educational Universe: Universities in the Digital Age

In recent years it has become clear to most educators that digital technology—and, in particular, the Internet—now makes possible a variety of new opportunities for teaching and learning. Experimentation has ranged from placing courses and teaching materials online to the creation of teaching and learning communities and coops, and the development of online interactive learning environments.

One of the more promising aspects of the Web is the way that it can also assist in the formation of Internet communities—a concept that, at first glance, may seem antithetical to the anonymous nature of Web-based interactions. But, in fact, the Web is now appreciated for the way in which it facilitates informal communication and information exchange among individuals. The GCI has experimented with the Web as a virtual work space for teacher collaboration in a few projects—including in the course Historic Buildings, Collections, and Sites and in Project Terra. In addition to providing a common area for posting materials and other project information, it supports a greater degree of day-to-day cooperative work among partners.

The GCI has also been investigating other ways that electronic technology can extend the impact of our educational work. We are in the process of launching an online teaching resource for conservation educators on the GCI's Web site. This resource will feature teaching materials created by the GCI, as well as information about the courses and other projects for which they were created. The teaching materials will be available to conservation teachers who can download the material for classroom use.

How do we know what really works when it comes to teaching and learning in the online environment? The digital world brings many benefits but has also created new problems, many of which are specific to the online environment. We are still becoming acquainted with the promises of the digital age, which remains in its pioneering phase. Because we are in a period of experimentation, educators need to recognize that the best approaches will emerge only over time. The process of discovering what works and what doesn't will influence not only how educational technology will evolve but also how we integrate it into teaching and learning in the future. As these technologies are explored and as the Internet becomes a reality for an ever-growing segment of the world's population, new models for teaching and learning will be available—as will generally greater access to educational opportunities.

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
—B. F. Skinner

Education can have both a responsive and a catalytic function within the field of conservation at large. It responds to—and in some instances serves as laboratory for—new or changing requirements within professional practice. Given the opportunities that technology is bringing into all of education, it is probably fair to say that we are at the start of what is likely to be a period of rapid transformation and rejuvenation. Despite the challenges that the changing landscape of education presents, with those changes comes a growing sense of connection to a wider community of educators. In the digital age, Thoreau's free, meandering brook has many new channels in which to flow.

Kathleen Dardes is a senior project specialist with the GCI's Education section.