Teaching: on the front line

May 16, 2003

What is your experience of teaching? Pat Leon asks teachers how they manage

Name: David W. J. Gill

Age: 42

Job: Senior lecturer in ancient history and subdean, faculty of arts and social studies, University of Wales, Swansea. My main lecturing is on Greek archaeology and art, Greece and Egypt, and archaeological skills for Egyptologists. I also teach information and communication technology research skills to classics postgraduates, and Greek epigraphy for the University of Wales intercollegiate masters in ancient history.

Salary: Towards the top of the senior lecturer scale.

Qualifications: BA, DPhil. I am a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

I hold a European computer driving licence - no humanities student should graduate without one.

Experience: My first excavation was an Iron Age/Roman agricultural site in Hertfordshire, but more recently I have been involved with the survey of the Methana peninsula in the Greek Argolid. I was a Rome scholar at the British School at Rome, before holding a Sir James Knott Fellowship in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I then spent nearly five years in the department of antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Hours spent on teaching: The increase in student numbers means more time teaching - and more time marking. The first day of term was five contact hours back-to-back. This year I have been developing a number of Blackboard websites to support my modules, to which the student response has been excellent. The courses have embedded ICT skills that will prepare humanities students for the world of work.

Hours on red tape: I recently took over the postgraduate portfolio, after completing five years as exams officer. I also enjoy chairing the university managed learning environment subcommittee and the computer and media users' group.

Hours on research: One day a week - in theory. The looting of antiquities in Iraq has made my work on archaeological ethics with Chris Chippindale in Cambridge particularly relevant. Our supporting website has had heavy use in the past month. Our research on collecting antiquities is particularly applicable to government policy on cultural property. I am also completing a post-excavation report on the Greek colony of Euesperides in Libya with the assistance of Oxford colleagues and a postgraduate student in Swansea.

Teaching bugbear: Weaning students off unfocused use of the web. My heart sinks when I see wackywebsite.com in the bibliography to an essay.

How would you solve it? Providing reliable and quality resources from within Blackboard, including bibliographies that are hot-linked to JSTOR, the scholarly journal archive. I am developing a digital library for supporting Greek archaeology; one of the latest developments is a virtual walk-round of the Parthenon sculptures. A grant from the Learning and Teaching Support Network for the next academic year will help us identify how students are being supported by Blackboard.

Teaching pleasure: I love seminars in Swansea's Egypt Centre where we can discuss issues over real objects. The theory from lectures gets grounded in actual artefacts, from tomb lintels to amulets.

Outside interests: Cliff-walking on Gower; enjoying Verdi's ice-cream while looking out over Swansea bay; family; church; writing poetry; living within easy reach of Hay-on-Wye.

Career high points: Seeing the realisation of the Egypt Centre. Part of the Taliesin Arts Centre, it houses part of the Egyptological collection formed by the entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome. It plays a key part in the university's activities, working with schools and the Friends organisation, of which I am president.

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