[36] Brexit-Monks: Inspiring Student Engagement with the Medieval Past through Curriculum Design



Brexit-Monks: Inspiring Student Engagement with the Medieval Past through Curriculum Design

Author (s)

Charlie Rozier Lecturer in Medieval History
College of Arts and Humanities


I want to use this session to share my experiences and spark conversations with audience members, about how teachers in Higher Education can work to spark student engagement and interest in our subjects.

My workshop will present the case study of the Swansea History module titled ‘Vikings, Monks and Conquest: Britain in Europe, 1000-1200 AD’. I developed this as course as a new third-year option module for 2017-18, in an effort to more effectively communicate to students the immediate relevance of studying medieval history. The module, commonly referred to by colleagues as the ‘Brexit monks’ module, seeks to highlights the immediate relevance of subject specific knowledge and skills in critical thinking, discussion and debating.

My proposed session is divided into three sections:

Part 1: Introduce the module, including:

  • Intellectual rationale: divisive discussions among modern historians on the nature of Britain’s historical relationships with Europe
  • Pedagogical rationale: Finding a topic that sparks interest – relating this to current events helps this; Highlighting skills elements; Assessment strategies: blog-writing task feeds into most important intended module outcome: ‘Formulate challenging questions about the continued relevance of the medieval past in modern society and culture, and respond to them in writing with independent and detailed analysis and interpretation.’

Part 2: Sample of how this is done

This module is about formulating opinions, and questioning them, based on historical evidence: it is important that students learn how to make reasoned opinions, how to share them with others, and how to listen to the opinions of others (even, and especially, if you disagree!) I will set up an interactive discussion session, asking audience members to explore the following questions:

Question: In 2018, how do you think the rest of Europe views Britain, and the British people?

  • What do European think British people do well?
  • What do European people think British people do less well?
  • Where are you from? Do you consider yourself to be British, European, Asian, North American, etc., or something else?

After groups have fed back to the class, I will use the projector to share some medieval author’s views of their own identities, and the relationships between Britain and Europe during the period c.1000-1200: do these authors think differently or the same about this subject as us?

Part 3: Conclusions and Reflections

The final section of this session will be sued to reflect on my experiences of designing and teaching this module, and crucially, will include feedback from student module evaluations. In line with the conference themes, particular attention will be paid to the extant to which and ways in which the module has facilitated student engagement and aspirations, and the extent to which more needs to be done in these areas. Audience members are invited to share their thoughts and ask questions about all aspects of the session and module as a whole.

Session Outline

As above, divided into three parts:

1: Module outline and aims

2: Sample of teaching techniques

3: Reflective conclusions and discussions

Key Words

student engagement,medieval history, relevance, teaching demonstration, collaborative discussions

Key Messages

We will explore ways in which medieval history continues to be made relevant and attractive to students, both in:

1: Helping to answer philosophical questions on identities and exchanges

2: Providing students with knowledge and skills to negotiate debates and decide courses of action in the modern and future world



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