3 thoughts on “Taking ownership of ‘transferable’ skills?

  1. Great stuff. I wonder if one might think of it the other way around? That is, what if we view those activities that allow one to bring in skills from another field (I know graphs, say) or use beyond history as a tightly bound academic field AND are useful in that field, that is transferable skills, as the most valuable? Blogging, say, is about weighing in on a debate and considering the needs and desires of different types of audiences. How many essays have history profs read which seem to have no consideration at all of audience, let along different types? Indeed, how many books? How might history improve by such a consideration. Bring on the transferable.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment. The idea of ‘transferring in’ skills is a nice way of appropriating a term that is widely derided as as an instrumentalist agenda that detracts from students’ acquisition of disciplinary-history skills. It does require what Reuss calls ‘disciplinary modesty’ – so acknowledging that other fields have something valuable to contribute. I’m not sure any scholarly community is particularly good at this! A point I’m keen to get across in my book is that historians can’t just complain about being excluded from policy debates but need to consider how we can work actively with other disciplines in addressing policy issues. A sense of the complementarity of different methods and forms of knowledge might help us combine our efforts. Maybe more cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching would help develop that inclination to ‘transfer-in’ skills and insights early?
      I think you’re absolutely right about audience. I suspect that assessment is one of the problems here – if you set an essay, you’re presuming a very narrow audience: the tutor. What if you set a blog, or a briefing note, or heritage trail leaflet? What if the marking criteria reflect, at least in part, the specific requirements of the output? What if externals with relevant expertise could comment on the outputs? Public history courses do cover this territory, but my concern would be that it’s conveniently marginalised from the mainstream. Public history shouldn’t ‘own’ this kind of writing as if it doesn’t matter or isn’t relevant inside the ‘academy’.
      I echo your call to bring on the transferable!

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