First European Conference for Archival Educators and Trainers
Theo Thomassen, Archiefschool, Amsterdam
MODELLING AND RE-MODELLING ARCHIVAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING
This essay is about the development in archival education and training from the perspective of two contrasting paradigms: the old industrial vs. the new knowledge paradigm of the organisation and transfer of knowledge. After a short characteristic of the industrial mode of production in general and of archival education in particular in a period of shifting paradigms (par. 2), it will be demonstrated that within the industrial paradigm the four major tendencies in archival education and training - expansion, innovativeness, integration and professionalisation - have met their intellectual and physical boundaries. (par. 3-4). It will be argued that a new electronic open sourced and student-centred learning environment for archival education and training might be developed, in which these four major could be redirected into appropriate channels (par. 5).
2. Traditional curriculum development and the paradigm shift
2.1 Curriculum development in the industrial society
Mass production is the most striking feature of industrial society. Mass production is highly procedural by character. A mass product like a car is produced according to fixed procedures. This procedure regulates the sequence and the structure of a number of sub-procedures, each of which regulates the production of a part of the car. This mode of production is linear and static. The whole logistic process has been established forehand. Procedures cannot easily be changed: each change in a procedure will disturb the production process as a whole. In periods of rapid developments, this linear and static character of the automobile production offers serious problems for both the automobile industry and its customers. When the production of a car is in full process, substantial adaptations to the customer’s needs are virtually impossible.
In the industrial society not only cars are being produced in this way, but also social security services, wars, and education. The production process of education in the industrial era can be characterised as an integrated and complicated procedure for storing existing knowledge in the heads of students from birth to retirement. Human beings start learning to read and to write, to add and to subtract, to prepare themselves for communicating in different languages and to gain a basic knowledge of the general disciplines in the world of learning: mathematics, biology, geography, history etc. Then they are compelled to make a fundamental choice for a specific profession and consequently for specialisation in a clearly defined field of learning, in order to acquire a sound knowledge of this field and the research methods exclusively codified for that field, from the general to the specific, from what can be presented simple to what only can be presented in a complex way. And finally they learn everything about records and may call themselves archivists.
All components of the general education system have similar features. In the industrial society competent individuals on any specific level in any specific field are the result of an industrial production process. This production process is structured according to a central procedure called the curriculum, which organises a number of sub-procedures, called course descriptions. The curriculum in its turn is a sub procedure in the general educational process of the school or the university. Procedures are linear and static. Each change in a procedure will cause the whole production process to be disturbed, as University managers frequently demonstrate. The production process is linear and static. Educators may be as customer-oriented as they want to be, but if students suggest to replace modules or to change their sequence, they must pitiful explain hat they share their criticism and warmly applaud their suggestions, but that it is not feasible to change the programme again, a programme which, by the way, has been discussed and approved two years ago by all bodies involved, including the then students.
In the industrial society, the similarity of the production of archival education and the production of cars is quite obvious. The disadvantages of this production mode can even more easily be demonstrated by education than by cars. The old Henry Ford produced cars in any colour his customers asked for, provided that it would be black. His successors were more flexible: they produced different models with a variety of colours. But what they never did is producing just one prototype and replacing that with the next, even before the first one had come into full production. This way of operating is more typical for archival education and for education in general than for the automobile industry. Twelve years ago, when I joined the staff of the Archiefschool in The Hague, processing archives was the organising concept of the curriculum. As soon as I became the Director of the school, this central production procedure was replaced by a procedure according to the life cycle of records. A few years later this procedure in its turn was set aside by a procedure according to recordkeeping and archival functions. And this year, even before this organising concept had fully been implemented, we took the next step by adopting the full integration of archival and information science subjects as the organising concept of a new curriculum.
On hindsight I must admit, that in reorganising our programmes, we did not succeed in breaking the discipline of industrial production. When you examine the contents of the programmes, you will see improvement after improvement, but when you focus on the consequences of changing production procedures, it becomes clearly visible that it has almost been impossible to prevent students from getting lost between the scaffolds of subjects under construction. Students would certainly be in a state of continuous revolt if the teachers would not be so dedicated and so catching enthusiastic for the revolutionary developments in what they apparently cherish as their professional domain. If only one conclusion could be drawn it must be the conclusion, that - under the conditions of industrial production of education - successfully integrating new concepts, methods and even paradigms in the curriculum as such may not be considered a guarantee for customers satisfaction.
The thesis advocated in this article is, that in constructing programmes for archival education and training we must try to abandon an industrial way of thinking and operating and adopt an educational behaviour that fits more to the knowledge society under construction. In order to make that position clear, I would first like to identify the main reason and the main directions of the changes in archival education we experienced over the last decades. After that I would like to explore the pay offs of a fundamental shift in approach, a paradigm shift, in archival education. And finally I will draw some conclusions.
2.2 The paradigm shift
Most changes in archival education and training are provoked by changes in the archival profession, the scientific discipline it tries to monopolise and its exclusive intervention field.
The current paradigm shift in archival science and the other information sciences has provided archival education with a brand new orientation. A traditionally history oriented discipline is shifting into an information oriented discipline. We all are experiencing the tremendous impact of this shift on the contents, the structure and the context of our programmes. It affects the subjects we teach and their range, the concepts we discuss in class, even the language we use in our communication with our students and among ourselves. It also affects our relations with what we now identify as our neighbouring disciplines, the target group from which we recruit our students and the labour market we have to prepare them for. The paradigm shift is undoubtedly the most tyrannical agent of change archival education has ever experienced.
The focus of this essay, however, is not the changes in the archival discipline as such or the actions archival educators must undertake to adapt their programmes to these changes, but the very process of changing and adapting these programmes and the procedures we tend to follow to respond to all these changes.
3 Expansion, innovation, integration and professionalisation
3.1 Directions of change
In archival education and training, like in professional education and training generally, four main directions of change can be distinguished: (1) expansion, (2) innovation, (3) integration and (4) professionalisation.
Expansion is the first and most obvious direction of change. Archival work has grown broader, more diverse and more complex. On the one hand, the range of archival competencies expanded from the ability to arrange and describe archives to competencies in all archival and record keeping functions. On the other, the labour market perspective widened. The world of public archives expanded into the whole domain of archival institutions, records offices, and other information processing and providing organisations. By consequence, the demand for archival education expanded tremendously over de past few decades.
Responding to this increasing demand, archival schools and other providers of archival education primarily expanded the supply of education by increasing both the volume of knowledge to be transmitted and the amount of time spent in school. More subjects were added than dropped. More subjects were extended than reduced. In the eighties, on request of the Dutch archival services, the Archiefschool added a number of new subjects to its curricula, on photographic materials, or computers or what we then called “modern archives”, which made the number of subjects and hours increase with not less than 50%, partly at the cost of the regular activities of the students in the archives. When this policy split on the rock of physical capacity, the school diverted its policy to the development of special courses, particularly on appraisal and electronic records. Finally, the school resorted to new teaching methods in order to further increase the educational output, in order to maintain its mission to impart a general knowledge and understanding of the whole scientific domain of process bound information.
Archival educators answered the growing demands by expanding the supply of education and training activities in time and in range and content of learning and by the introduction of new training methods, but also by increasing the variety of learning situations. When some archival operations in archives grew more complex, due for instance to the introduction of computers in archival services, other operations remained as simple as they always had been, which asked for specifying the supply of archival education and training according to level. In response to growing complexity, however, most energy and money was spent on upgrading the programs. Vocational programmes of archival training were upgraded to a professional level and sometimes replaced by or transformed into academic curricula. In the last ten years, moreover, the number of master degree programs in archival science gradually increased and so did the courses in archival science that made a substantial part of a master degree course in the documentary and information sciences.
Upgrading programmes for archival education included reinforcing the role of archival research. Archival educators became more aware that the world of information and communication is developing so fast, that they could only teach archival science while developing it at the same time. The establishment of programs of archival research, which formerly - if existent at all - had been almost restricted to mediaeval diplomatics, became a central issue. In several establishments adequate facilities were created for archival research and for stimulating the exchange of professional knowledge with teachers and researchers in neighboring disciplines. The transfer of new archival concepts to future members of the profession and the new status of archival science as an autonomous scientific discipline not only caused the expansion of archival education but also the expansion of archival research.
The upgrading process was not undisputed. Archivists became engaged in a stormy debate on the question whether archival education should focus on on-the-job-apprenticeship or on the academic environment. Not surprisingly, the conclusion of this debate was, that recordkeeping institutions needed both craftsmen and professionals, both workers and thinkers. Craftsmen are supposed to learn how to do their jobs and to grasp mainly the characteristics of the job itself, professionals must learn the underlying discipline, which is the reason of existence of the job. Archival education and training should not be focussed on just one level, but it should cover all.
The response of the archives schools to the growing diversity in degree of complexity of work and working methods was, again, the expansion of their supply by offering education and training at more levels. New and more complex procedures and sub-procedures had to be developed and implemented to guarantee the production of brand new clear-cut archivists with common characteristics.
A second direction of change in the field of archival education and training is the increasing importance of an innovative attitude as a central learning objective.
It is not possible for archives schools to expand their programmes to such an extent that all training needs of the profession be met. As a consequence of the rapid expansion of science and technology, it is impossible to impart to the future members of the profession all knowledge and skills they will need in their future jobs. Teachers and facilities are scarce and choices have to be made.
Students must master the state of the art of the discipline and the profession, but they must especially gain competency in new and future situations. “The archivists we are training will be competent only if they are able to adapt to every situation”, Carol Couture wrote in 1994. “For this to take place, we need to train them to learn things more than we need to train them to do things. When they leave our care, they should have more questions than answers.” Moreover: they must be trained not only for adaptability but also for the mastery of the processes of change in their work situation, they must be prepared to give shape to a future of which only the outlines can be seen now. Archival education must adapt professionals to changes, but also be an agent of change by itself.
By adopting a critical attitude towards the existing situation, archival educators can raise the awareness of the students for new developments and for need to innovate indeed. But in doing so, they also meet the boundaries of the current mode of production. Within these boundaries it is quite easy for educators to stimulate a critical approach from their students or to share with them their own intellectual odyssey of the past decades, but it is not that easy to give these students the opportunity of fighting their own intellectual struggle. Our curricula are linear and static, they can only organise the production of innovative archivists by taking a coherent system of new ideas, the new paradigm, as the organising principle of the whole curriculum. Our production process only allows us to enforce innovation, to enforce the critical approach top-down. This is a constraint to both our own innovativeness as educators and to the innovativeness of students and future professionals.
The third direction of change in archival education is integration. Integration is probably the most crucial process. Effective archival education is integrated education. Archival education must frequently cross the boundaries between subjects, specialisations, traditional disciplines and related professions and between the world of learning and the world of work. Without integration, expansion is costly and wasteful, and innovation is difficult to achieve.
In the information industry, boundaries separating disciplines and professions break down “as an information handling or service community takes shape” as Charles Dollar has put it. The intervention field of the archivists to be educated is an integrating intervention field and, by consequence, integrated must be their professional profile. Information handling institutions ask for employees with a broad view, flexibility and creativity. There is a need for professionals in records centres, archives and libraries with a broad range of deep expertise who are able to communicate with and understand each other across the old boundaries. Consequently, inter-disciplinary programs are needed which can provide students with enough breadth to function in today's world and with adequate depth to be really effective at something.
Boundaries separating disciplines and professions break down including boundaries separating archival education from the education in neighbouring disciplines. Archival education adopts a multidisciplinary approach. Archival education cannot be too specialist, specific or prescriptive. Science and technology are changing so rapidly, that education, and especially professional education, cannot aim any longer at transferring specialized knowledge structured according to the traditional disciplines. Archival educators frequently consider the integration of subjects, classes and even curricula. At the University of Amsterdam we are in the process of fully integrating the archival science modules and the information science modules in a new bachelor programme. On the master level we have chosen for a partial integration by sharing some common modules between the Master's Archival Science and the Master's Information Science. It certainly is a fascinating process, which not only involves linking archival elements and information science elements, but also the complete rethinking and restyling of all these elements as such.
Integration of archival education also involves the integration of the world of learning and the world of work. Archival education like all professional education must be continuous education. It consists of initial archival education, aimed at inexperienced young people who want to become members of the profession, and continuing archival education, aimed at experienced archivists and records managers who want to update their knowledge and skills.
Finally, the integration process also implies the further integration of archival teaching and archival research. It has already been stated, that - more than ever before - archival educators must integrate teaching and research and teach archival science while developing it. Moreover, research should also be integrated research in the sense that it adopts a multidisciplinary approach. It is to be expected that the integration of archival and information science in our university programme will also stimulate integration in the field of research, in doctoral thesis’s and PhD programmes.
Integration is the most crucial and the most critical process. Integration of contents, classes and curricula in our industrial environment is linking together all components of archival education in a meaningful way, in order to establish an adequate overall educational structure, which can only be kept under central control when it is formal and hierarchical. That is the only way to ensure that all elements of the integrating parts are included and arranged according to their nature.
Such a formal integration operation (an operation aimed at the integration of all education and training activities) sets its own limits. Integrating subjects, disciplines, different stages of the business processes of different organisations will always need more procedures and procedures to organise these procedures, which might lead to an ever growing complexity and finally to a degree of disorganisation which will cause the production to stagger. The larger a formal structure is, the more inflexible it is. Moreover, the integration process is limited by the boundaries of the formal organisation. Under industrial conditions, integration is integration of the own offerings, and it is unlike that it crosses the boundaries of the own factory, the archives school. Effective adaptation to ever changing needs, however, asks for a flexible and most of the time temporary integration of the offerings of a variety of providers: a variety of universities, university departments, schools, commercial entrepreneurs, employing organisations and professional organisations.
3.4 Professionalisation; pedagogical strategies and learning objectives.
The fourth direction of change in archival education is professionalisation. In this context professionalisation refers to the quality of the providers of archival education as educators. When I started working at the Archiefschool in The Hague the teachers were primarily working archivists, contents specialist, who tried to transfer their knowledge to their students, in a one-way-lecturing-process. The pedagogical focus was on the transfer of formal knowledge and skills. In the broad field of professional education, however, it was already becoming quite clear that knowledge and skills could not suffice for long. While the focus of the learning objectives began to shift to understanding and attitudes, .the focus of pedagogical strategies began to shift from the traditional manpower- and curriculum-strategies to flexibility-strategies, aimed at promoting general qualities like flexibility, creativity, learning capacity, working discipline, communicativeness and co-operativeness.
Providers of higher education began to transform the discipline- and teacher-oriented character of their curricula into a competency- and student-oriented character.
In such a new pedagogical environment, archival educators may benefit from professional archivist's knowledge and experience, but they must be educators in the first place. The introduction of more sophisticated pedagogical methods made the part-time teaching archivist an endangered species. Nowadays, teachers in archival science must have and maintain the professional knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes of the information age but also the skills and the personal involvement of professional teachers. They must teach their students to use modern information and communication technology in order to enable them to study independently and to become a competent professional.
4 The impediments for the flexible and continuous adaptation of curricula
4.1 The role of decision making bodies
The impediments for a flexible and continuous adaptation of our programs are not only located in the organisation of the production process within our own department or school, but also in the organisation of the general education system and society as such.
A large part of the curriculum development process is beyond the control of archival educators. Part of the process is owned by the provider, the university or school, which decides upon the place and the status of archival education within the organisation. It was the University of Amsterdam which in 1995 decided to cut the budget available for archival science. The only way for my school to prevent this was to supply additional funds and that is what we actually did. Of course we requested something in return: the maintenance of the chair and its shift from the History to the Information Science Department. But essentially it was a budget cut action of the University that could be positively redirected. It was also the University of Amsterdam that gave its programs a major - minor structure. It gave the Netherlands Archiefschool the opportunity of completing the shift from a more pragmatic to a more scientific orientation in its curriculum, but primarily it was a university decree that forced the school to change at that very moment.
Another part of the curriculum development process is owned by political bodies on both national and international levels. They may expand and reduce the length of studies. They may impose to the universities of 29 European countries a bachelor's - master's structure, compelling the Netherlands Archiefschool to completely restyle its recently restyled programs. It gave the school the opportunity to accelerate the integration of archival and information education, but it was primarily the declaration of Bologna, signed by 29 European ministers of education, that initiated this major change in the curriculum.
Within the framework of industrial production a large part of the curriculum development process must be beyond the control of archival educators. Each department of a university, be it archival science, information science or history, produces only a part of the product. The only way to assemble the whole product is to link the procedure for producing this part to procedures for producing the other parts and to integrate all these procedures in the general procedure. The production of education is still basically industrial production, in which a strict division of labour goes along with hierarchy, bureaucracy and a top down regulation of the production process. Under “industrial conditions” archival educators have to take that for granted, deal with it and defend their still unstable position by taking the initiative in implementing plans and regulations hatched by the boards of superior bodies. At the same they must anticipate the knowledge society and convince their colleagues in the field and their associations that it makes no sense to draft all these specific demands for programmes for archival education and that they would be more effective if they would concentrate on overall goals of archival education on the one hand and identifying archival competencies on the other.
4.2 Standards as a panacea
The industrial society controls complexity by means of hierarchy and chaos by means of standards. Standards are the classic tools of industrial cooperation. The greatest victory of the industrial production mode is the standard height of car bumpers all over the world.
The classic response of providers of archival education and training to adaptation problems is an urgent call for hierarchical structures and standards. In all the complex processes of change I referred to earlier, archival educators feel an urgent need for models and guidelines. What they would applaud most is a standard model for archival education or, even better, a standard curriculum, ready to be implemented.
The Directory of archive schools and programs for archival education, published by ICA’s Section on Archival Education and Training some decade ago, could easily be read as a catalogue of missing standards if you wish to. It clearly demonstrates the differences in the supply of formal archival education and training all over the world, in terms of educational level, entrance requirements, the contents and the orientation of the curricula, the organization and structure of the courses or the relations with the general educational system and the public archive system. The next edition of the Directory will undoubtedly demonstrate that a kind of communis opinio is developing concerning goals, orientation and learning objectives, but it also will show much of the same old differences and probably a few more.
In this context it is very interesting to take notice of the Revised Education Guidelines of the Committee on Professional Education and Development (CEPD) of the Society of American Archivists. The first words are: “The future of archival education will be shaped by the proposed SAA Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies,“ and these words do reflect not only the American way of addressing mankind, but also a firm belief in standards. “Two-thirds of the students' work should be dedicated to the area of archival knowledge, while one-third should be related to the contextual and complementary knowledge areas” is just one example of the specificity of what the Guidelines dictate. This industrial approach of the production of archival education and training however meets more criticism than it would have been met a couple of years ago. A good example is the critical comment mounted by Margaret Hedstrom to the North American archival educators list serv, of which I feel obliged to quote a substantial part.
Margaret Hedstrom first opposes SAA’s preference for one specific model as such. “It must be stated clearly”, she writes, “ that there are a number of venues for archival studies programs including academic departments, professional schools, and autonomous departments or schools offering a separate degree without necessarily saying that any one approach is superior or preferred. (…) We need programs that educate a new generation of archivists who are aware of their relationships with and interdependence with other professionals, programs that are broadly inter-disciplinary. (…) We need both variety and quality in archival education and that both of these objective can be achieved in programs located in history departments or information science departments (or perhaps other academic disciplines), in professional schools of library or information science, public policy, business, etc. or in interdisciplinary schools like ours, or in autonomous departments.”
Margaret Hedstom does not oppose guidelines as such. “Good archival studies curriculum will have overall goals, coherence, and a clear relationship to some larger curriculum”, she wrote, “But I would prefer to see a document that covers the range of possibilities rather than one that seems to be telling archival educators what to teach and how to teach and also seems to be telling universities what the qualifications of their faculty should be. Where these guidelines advocate a high degree of uniformity, I am more in favour of greater variety built on a smaller core of common knowledge. I think that this is a more realistic way for programs to achieve excellence in what they claim to be and a better way to support programs that are trying to achieve unique identities based on the strengths and research interests of their faculty, the market from which students are drawn (local, regional, national, international), particular local conditions, and the likely career trajectories of graduates. The danger here, of course, is entropy in archival programs, but I am less fearful of that than the constraints on variety and innovation in the current guidelines.”
4.3 The inflexibility and linearity of the organisation of knowledge and education in the industrial society:
The constraints on variety and innovation are not only to be found in the current and draft SAA-guidelines. They have become characteristic for our traditional education system and for our traditional knowledge system, for the education and knowledge systems of the industrial society. Learning needs change as rapidly as society itself and for educators it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to cope with that and to consequently take learning needs - i.e. the learning needs of students - as their point of departure in the process of curriculum development.
Before going more deeply into the education system, let us first take a closer look at the knowledge system. In the industrial society the knowledge to be transferred to new generations is primarily knowledge of a systematic and procedural character. Our industrial world of knowledge has only one entrance and when you have passed the gate, a logical, hierarchical structure leads you from what the architects have identified as the basement to what they designed as the top, from the simplicity to the complexity of the structure, from what in his system is general to what is specific. Even Kuhn’s model of the development of science, revolutionary enough in its concept, has traditionally been interpreted in a static or “industrial” way. Kuhn presented his model as a highly linear procedure of subsequent paradigms, and gave his scientific revolutions the function of a neat separation between two paradigms.
In the industrial society not only the development of scientific disciplines, but also the organisation of knowledge within a specific paradigm is highly procedural by character. You simply cannot start your research just by exploring the subject where you are interested in. You must start with the fundamentals of the discipline in question, than proceed with a manual on the specific subject or period, then read a monograph and then finally, you may arrive, hopefully, at the point where you had wished to be right from the beginning. You have to start with analysing the archival system, then proceed with visiting the appropriate archives, then identify the relevant organisations, then find the inventory of the relevant archive, then get acquainted with the structure of this inventory, the identify the item in question, and finally find the information you wanted to find at the very beginning: the love letters of your grand-grand parents.
In the industrial society, the procedural character of the organisation and acquisition of knowledge is reflected in the educational system, earlier labelled as an optimised procedure for storing an increasing amount of existing, procedural knowledge in the heads of students. Inflexibility and ineffectiveness has become characteristic for the organisation of this system. No one is entitled to call himself an archivist, a lawyer or a doctor who did not obediently follow the right signposted road along the subsequent schools and courses and who did not go through the different programs step by step, from module to module, from hour to hour. It is strictly forbidden to embark at your own harbour of interest and try to find the contextual framework of the rest of the world next, like a surfer on the internet. It is strictly prohibited to start with what the designers of the system established as specific, to jump one link in the chain or to change the sequence. The machine only runs smoothly and safely when all parts are assembled in the right order and on the right spot.
5 New teaching strategies, teaching methods and teaching environments
5.1 New strategies
The industrial, procedural way of organising knowledge and of teaching, learning and thinking is rapidly losing its efficiency and effectiveness as a knowledge society takes shape. In the knowledge paradigm of the knowledge society, the model of the characteristic linear thinking within the boundaries of one paradigm is in the process of being replaced by a model of competing paradigms, which can be used at the same time by the same person for different purposes. (Fundamentally, this is what post-modernism is all about.)
What education and training are concerned: designing all-embracing programs of archival education and training aimed at transferring an ever-growing amount of procedural archival knowledge is obviously a dead end road. The amount of knowledge to be transferred increases with amazing speed and acquired knowledge can become outdated even before it can be used. The introduction of new teaching methods accelerated the transfer of knowledge, but that appeared to be hardly sufficient to keep up with the growth of knowledge to be transferred. Archival educators try to cover the whole field of information in a systematic way, try to transfer all knowledge and skills an archivist may need in his working life in hierarchically structured programmes for archival education and training, and have students of all kinds follow fixed, pre-designed learning tracks. The knowledge society, however, offers us new strategies for providing archival education and training.
In the industrial society most knowledge to be transferred in education is procedural knowledge, knowledge to be acquired according to pre-designed procedures or methods. But this kind of knowledge is knowledge that can be automated. A computer can think only in a linear-logical, procedural way, and it can do this better than human beings can do. When it comes to adding and subtracting, it can accomplish tasks a human being will never be able to accomplish. Consequently, the electronic pocket calculator has entered the class rooms to do the automated calculating, which made the learning tasks in class shift from the execution to the application of the calculations. When a similar kind of labour division between computer and human brain will also be implemented in other fields of knowledge - and we have already covered quite a part of these fields - ICT will optimally play its function of tool of logics, while the human brain will be focussed on non-linear, more creative thinking, which is an exclusive domain it cannot share with a computer.
In the knowledge society the model of teachers transferring a body of knowledge will be replaced by the model of students acquiring instruments to find and develop knowledge. In education and training, assessment will not primarily focus anymore on the amount of knowledge acquired and the ability to organise knowledge in a linear way, but on the understanding of general and specific problem solving methodologies and processing information by creative application. Procedural, encyclopaedical knowledge will increasingly be stored not in the heads of the students but on the intranets of their schools and the World Wide Web. To the degree in which procedural archival thinking can be left to clever software applications, the interaction between archival educators will aim at mastery of non-procedural, more creative thinking. Context will gain priority over contents and methods over subjects. Archival education will easier cross boundaries of disciplines and professions, while at the same time those boundaries will blur and eventually disappear, while other distinctions of work and science such as distinctions in specific techniques and specific methods to be applied will become more dominant.
5.2 New research and teaching methods
The exponential increase of social knowledge asks for new pedagogical techniques to speed up the transfer of knowledge. New pedagogical techniques have been introduced earlier, but obviously they cannot keep up with the growth of knowledge to be transferred. A more fundamental change in our pedagogical methods is needed and to be expected.
The industrial society is transforming into a knowledge society. ICT is revolutionising the world of the professions, the knowledge system and the education system. We all do experience the impact of ICT on our profession, our scientific discipline and our teaching. The impact on our teaching goes far beyond merely introducing the subject of electronic records in our classes and changing the orientation of the existing subjects. It affects every aspect of archival education and training: its contents, its structure and the way it is provided.
Within the industrial process of knowledge transfer, it is the school that offers the learning context, the teacher who frames the problems to be solved, and the student who is invited to find the right, pre-conceived, answers. This linear, educator-centred teaching process can be automated to a high degree. In an intranet environment (Blackboard for instance) course descriptions, relevant articles and other learning tools can be made available in an electronic format and student papers can be posted and discussed. It appears to be a very effective way of using ICT in the learning process.
In stead of reproducing the existing tools and structures in an electronic learning environment, in stead of replacing the traditional “drill and practice” approach by an electronic “drill and practice” approach, however, ICT can also create new educational tools and structures, new powerful learning environments, which can support new learning processes and structures, which take the subjective learning question of the individual student as their starting point. It can establish an electronic learning environment which gives access to a bank of well packed cases, guidelines for practical exercises, directive questions for analysing texts, self-assessments, research tools, research materials etcetera, developed by a variety of providers. Such an electronic learning environment could include an automated and individualised monitoring system, a database system which can help a student to choose his own favourite learning context and which can support the student in formulating the relevant questions (s)he wishes to answer within the context chosen and in phrasing his learning questions in terms of the competencies he agreed to acquire, and which finally helps him in assessing the results of this learning process. Learning tracks and teaching strategies can be as varied as the target group itself.
Such learning tools are already under construction. The elements (cases, guided reading of literature etc.) have the form of small programmes, which can be used and re-used like LEGO-bricks in an endless variety of configurations. They can be kept in a bank of objects, an electronic archive which has been purposely designed to store them, to control and maintain their quality and to make them available and accessible to providers of archival education and training. On a macro-level, this learning system will probably not be one integrated system with global dimensions based on a global standard, but a number of learning systems, networked by means of communication protocols and clever interfaces.
The use of such learning systems will revolutionise the process of knowledge acquisition. The student can leave the linear and procedural thinking to the computer programme. It will be the computer, not his head, in which encyclopaedic knowledge will be stored. Guided by his teacher he can fully concentrate on acquiring the competencies he considers to be necessary for his present of future work.
An electronic learning environment can help archival educators to have students play the role of an investigator and themselves in the role of a coach. In this approach the archival educator concentrates on supervising the learning process, while the student is supposed to solve his self-defined problems. His pedagogic role is strengthened, since all pedagogical activities are based upon an individual relationship with his student and the shared interest in the context the student has chosen. An electronic learning environment can really be a student centred and teacher guided learning environment.
In this environment, the role of a coach is just one of the roles the educator can play. Another role is the role of an assessor, who establishes whether the student has acquired the competencies he or she should acquire. The third role is the role of a developer of learning contents. In this role the educator can use his professional knowledge as well as his abilities in the field of teaching methodology. The development of the structure of the learning system and the format of its elements, as well as the technical infrastructure can be left to specialists in other domains.
Good teachers are even more important than good curricula. The combination of a bad curriculum and a good and dedicated teacher can be successful, but the combination of a good curriculum and a bad teacher cannot. Competent professionals can only be effectively educated by competent teachers.
5.4 Co-operation among archival educators
Communication and cooperation among providers of archival education and training from all over the world, regardless of scale, scope and level of their programs, will certainly be central factors in developing programs for archival education and training. The fundamental reorientation and the demanded expansion, innovation, integration and professionalisation of the total supply of archival education and training ask for co-operation of archive schools with educational programs in the neighboring disciplines, with institutions specialized in teaching information and communication technology, with other providers, such as professional societies, archives and other information handling services, and lastly, with the information industry.
Cooperation is conditional to the permanent development of new learning tools, which are too costly for individual establishments to produce. Most of the archival educators in question can only respond to the demands of the information era in a rather down to earth way. Their establishments are small, their resources scarcely sufficient, and the organizations supporting them not very strong. They can only cope with the growing demands by addressing common problems jointly and by sharing their intellectual resources, their knowledge, their expertise and their courseware. An “Open Source”-approach is a necessary condition for making a variety of components of archival education and training accessible and available for the community of archival educators and their students, which in its turn is necessary for facilitating individual providers of archival education and training to cope with continuous change and provide a tailor-made training supply.
Cooperation will also be needed between providers of archival education and the archival profession. Maintaining their close bond will not be that easy. Drafting detailed guidelines for programs for archival education and training in order to make them compliant with the needs of the profession does not make sense anymore. The profession should identify the competencies archivist must possess, while archive schools should design programs in which students can acquire these competencies. What could we say more about it at this very moment? Archival science has expanded far beyond the limits of the scientific method for arranging and describing archives and the profession / labor market has expanded far beyond the limits of the public archives system. Cooperation is needed, but the blurring boundaries between academic disciplines on the one hand and professions on the other make it difficult to identify who should cooperate, but an exploration of this issue goes far beyond the scope of this paper.
6 The only question that counts: what to do next?
Within the paradigm of the knowledge society the four major tendencies in archival education and training - expansion, innovativeness, integration and professionalisation - might be redirected into appropriate channels. In archival education and training the ongoing expansion of knowledge will not primarily be met anymore by storing ever more knowledge in the heads of the students, but by the use of networked knowledge systems. Innovativeness and creativity will not primarily be promoted by the application of linear, procedural thinking anymore, but by the integration by the student of learning and researching right from the beginning of her or his study. Integration is not primarily realised by designing curricula of ever increasing complexity, but by enabling the student to link any specific learning component to any other component of his learning environment. And the professionalisation of the teaching process will not merely be an attribute of the new learning system, but a major condition for its use and further development.
Archival educators can make the journey from the industrial paradigm of archival education to the paradigm of the knowledge society just by making small steps. In taking these steps, it might be helpful to have some vision of the future of archival education. It might facilitate the process of taking educational choices which long term consequences. It might make archival educators more alert for of the dangers of complexity, uniformity and inflexibility, and more prepared to stand on simplicity, pluriformity and flexibility. It might make them more aware of the pitfalls of hierarchically structured curricula and the pay offs of decentralised programmes, of the disadvantages of top down, curriculum and teacher-centred approaches and the advantages of bottom up student centred approaches, of the constraints of up scaling and the potential of a structure made up of smaller components. It might prevent them from attributing the highest priority to the development of a standard curriculum and make us more creative in developing and re-using electronic learning tools. The essential step, however, is introducing in our schools some kind of electronic learning environment, initially only in order to automate and digitise part of the existing learning process and later on in order to establishing a completely new learning environment.
e-mail to Dr. Karsten Uhde, Date: 14.01.2005