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From a lecture to a whole day of archaeology field techniques

Until last year the Archaeology Field Techniques programme for first-year students consisted of a number of two-hour lectures. Now they spend a whole day on the programme. Assistant professor Jasper de Bruin is enthusiastic about this new approach. ‘You can do a lot more with the students, and that really makes a difference.’ This is part 1 from a series of lectures stories about innovative teaching.


These days are called  ’block days’ and they start with a lecture by De Bruin. Students are given scientific articles to read and in the afternoon there is a practical session. On a recent occasion, for example, they started working with iron from the Roman age. What was iron used for? What can you do with these objects? The students then had to enter all the artefacts in a database. These days always end with a report, discussion and feedback.

More depth

This new approach has a positive effect on students’ knowledge and skills, which is one of the aims of the University’s innovation policy.  The simple fact that you are spending not two hours but a whole day on a subject means you are looking at the subject in greater depth. ‘Now, students read the articles thoroughly because we ask them for a report on what they’ve read,’ De Bruin explains. ‘And at the excavations it’s very obvious that we are practising many different skills.’ 


One major difference is that there is no longer any question of pure one-way traffic.  The students are expected to use their own initiative more. De Bruin continues, ‘Normally I would have given instructions for the study of Roman iron artefacts. I don’t do that any more. And then you see that something different happens in each group. This way of teaching was a real eye-opener for me, and that students learn more when they have to find things out for themselves.’

De Bruin is now exploring ways of introducing new ideas and methods in the second-year programme on the Roman era. The programme currently comprises seven lectures: these will become six ‘block days’.   


‘Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to make this kind of change. Take the time you need and make sure your supervisor gives you enough time to do what you need to do.’  

In the context of another innovation project, De Bruin is working on a trial with a ‘virtual reality app’ with which  students wearing 3-D glasses have the sensation of standing in the middle of an excavation site. ‘It’s absolutely fantastic. I’m so pleased that the University understands that we have to be working with these kinds of innovative methods.’

Visit the education festival on 19 Juni in HUBspot Leiden!

This university-wide event is the opportunity to get inspired, hear new ideas, and share examples of  new teaching concepts and teaching innovation. You can find the programme here.

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