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Participant Views of ILAFS

Comments By Learners

One of the characteristics of pupils attending ILAFS which is commented on by all who have been present during ILAFS courses is the great enthusiasm that the experience generates amongst participating pupils (and school staff). This is not easy to document via the formal feedback form, so some of the written comments from learners attending ILAFS in East Anglia in 2009 and 2010 are included below, selected to give a flavour of the range and tone. Comments are all taken from written statements, either on their test pit report booklets, their feedback forms, their written assignments, or in e-mails to ACA project staff. Most of these are not specifically solicited, and all are supplied as free text with no prompting questions beyond (in some cases) the question "what did you enjoy about the Field Academy?" The comments provide a vivid flavour of learners' attitudes to their time on ILAFS . Respondents are identified here simply by their initials and school, but can be sourced to individuals via ILAFS records if required.

"This experience for me was one in a million." (HC, Hessett 2009)

"Overall I enjoyed the excavation and I feel the skills and experiences I had will be useful throughout the rest of my life" (DJ, Cottenham 2009)

"All in all, this was one of the best things I've ever done." (DH, Binham 2009)

"The archaeological dig was very good and I learned a lot from it. As well as keeping me physically fit, it tested my brain. The people I worked with were very nice and the day at the university helped me gain a fantastic insight into what life is like at uni. Thank you!" (SR, West Mersea 2009)

"I feel I learnt quite a lot from the project as it gave me more confidence as a whole. It helped me to develop more of an idea about what university life would be like, and exactly what is on offer more particularly at Cambridge University. Overall, I found it interesting, exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!" (ED, Castor 2009)

"I have learnt that there is much backbreaking work to excavate pottery and other valuable finds, but I did like the work as it was outside and a hands-on experience." (YJ, Coddenham 2009)

"I found the tour around one of the Cambridge Colleges especially helpful as it gave me a look inside what life at Cambridge University is like. Overall, I have enjoyed this field academy, and would like to do more things like this. Also, I would like to thank the people who organised this, for letting me have the opportunity to do this project." (YJ, Coddenham 2009)

"I personally found the field academy staff friendly, informative and interesting. Initially I felt apprehensive about being in a group, but this was an enjoyable experience and I felt we worked well as a team. The experience has given me the confidence to integrate with my peers in different situations." (LC, Coddenham 2009)

"I feel that the dig was very interesting because it was good to learn about the history of a settlement and feel like I am actually helping to discover new things and learn how archaeology works. I also feel I've gained more confidence by working with other people I've never met and teamwork and leadership skills." (KC, Carleton Rode 2009)

"I really enjoyed our 3-day trip and it has opened my eyes to different jobs out there. At first I thought I would hate it, but surprisingly, I enjoyed it. It was a good challenge and I enjoyed meeting new people. It has given me new skills I will never forget and helped me to make some new good friends".  (HS, Binham 2009)

"My aim was to have a good time, meet new people, and learn new skills and mainly to find good pottery, and I succeeded in everything. It has been a great experience for me, and if I ever had the chance to do it again, I'd take it, guaranteed." (TL, Terrington St Clement 2009)

"I do recommend other students to go on this trip as it’s an excellent chance." (HS, Binham 2009)

"I have learnt so much from this project and had such a good time; I got put in a really good group. Overall, it has been an amazing project and I'm so happy that I was able to attend." (AC, Sharnbrook 2009)

"Although the digging was hard work, it was great to be able to work in a team of people I had never met before. I have learnt how to communicate with people I may not necessarily normally meet in a work-like environment. My confidence has improved and I have learnt to manage my time more effectively." (RF, Pirton 2009)

"Our experience over the two days was very interesting as it was an insight into a profession that we had never imagined ourselves doing. It was a great experience." (KM and MC, Girton 2009)

"I think it's a really fun experience and I enjoyed meeting new people." CL (West Mersea 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) learning about the history of Cambridge University and the opportunities which we could have in the future and how to get there." IW (West Mersea 2010)

"I feel it was a new and good experience for anyone to see not only history and archaeology but also for Uni life." WB (West Mersea 2010)

"It's a brilliant chance for everyone!" JM (Writtle 2010)

"I enjoyed the whole experience and learning new things." JW (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"It was good working with professionals and helping out their investigations." BS (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"I really enjoyed learning about a career I am interested in and now knowing that it is something to consider doing at University." AP (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"I really enjoyed being told about our finds and learning what the results we came up with meant. It was a really great opportunity and I am grateful to have had the chance to participate in it! I was unsure whether I wanted to study archaeology but now I think I would like to." KH (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"I enjoyed learning about the history of Little Hallingbury and seeing how all our research came together and showed what it looked like back in time. It was a very interesting experience and a good way to meet a couple (of) new friends." GC (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"Thanks for the wicked experience." MT (Little Hallingbury 2010)

"I enjoyed knowing that we were making important archaeological discoveries. I really enjoyed working with new people." KB (Cottenham 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) working in the rain while helping (another) test pit. It was a hard job but it was also quite adventurous and funny." PR (Cottenham 2010)

"I've learned lots of things and overall I really enjoyed it." FW (Cottenham 2010)

"I enjoyed working in the group I did because we all got on very well and kept each other’s spirits high when we got tired." CM (Cottenham 2010)

"It was a very enjoyable experience where you have the chance to meet new people." ND

"Doing something different that could influence my career choice when I am older. I think it is a really good experience." EW (Cottenham 2010)

 "I enjoyed seeing the University best as it was really good to see the University and see how it worked." EK (Chediston 2010)

"I would love to do a similar experience again." AL (Chediston 2010)

"I really liked meeting new people and working together. I thought it was really fun." HT (Chediston 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) the whole experience in general! It was a very valuable experience! I loved it!" SE (Chediston 2010)

"‘It's given me inspiration to go to University. Thanks!" SN (Chediston 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) hanging around with different/new people in Cambridge." CC (Chediston 2010)

"Brilliant. Want to do it again." HA (Chediston 2010)

"I enjoyed learning about our finds and what time period they came from. I also enjoyed learning more about myself as a person and the people I worked with." RH (Chediston 2010)

"LOVED IT ALL!!! It was the greatest experience of my life and I am now considering archaeology whereas before I wasn't." CD-K (Chediston 2010)

"Thank you for letting me be part of this wonderful experience." CN (Chediston 2010)

"I enjoyed being treated and talked to like an adult. I thought the teamwork aspect was particularly good." GN (Chediston 2010)

"Just the whole experience was fantastic." HD (Coddenham 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) visiting the University and knowing that I have found things from different ages and that they were important." GG  (Coddenham 2010)

"AWESOME!" JM (Coddenham 2010)

"I enjoyed bonding with people from other schools, also getting an inside look at Uni." HL (Carleton Rode 2010)

"It was really fun! Thank you for a great time." EH (Carleton Rode 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) finding new people who enjoyed the same things as I do and meeting other archaeologists. It was amazing. The staff were brilliant and friendly and so were the other students." FR (Carleton Rode 2010)

"I enjoyed getting to know new people." AE

"It was really fun and different." HS (Gaywood 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) meeting new people and having fun while learning!" BD (Sharnbrook 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) meeting new people and working with them as a team." CR (Sharnbrook 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) the vibe and excitement when finding something new, and the overall experience. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, I have REALLY enjoyed it! It has changed my mind about University a lot." KM (Sharnbrook 2010)

"A great time to meet new people from different schools." RC (Sharnbrook 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) the fact it was something new in a new place, different from our normal surroundings." DA (Pirton 2010)

"I loved looking around Cambridge University. I feel the skills that I’ve learnt over the last few days will be really useful in later life. I have had an absolutely fantastic time! It was brilliant fun and I feel like I’ve learned so much. I would recommend this to anyone!" GM (Pirton 2010)

"The supervisors were really friendly and helpful." CN (Pirton 2010)

"I thought that the HEFA experience was brilliant. I really enjoyed it and it taught me a lot about archaeological practices and techniques. I hope the course is continued so that younger years can discover what a great subject archaeology is. Thank you!" OF

"I really really enjoyed this opportunity, keep it up!" OM (Pirton 2010)

"I have really enjoyed coming on the HEFA because it was so much fun and a great experience for me." HW (Pirton 2010)

"I think it was a great experience. I learnt a lot. Thanks." LS

"I'm really glad I got invited on the trip because it’s allowed me to find out new things, meet new people and experience more." AM (Pirton 2010)

"I have just loved this experience and would love to have the chance to do it again." DB (Binham 2010)

"It was very good, I really want to do it again." MR (Binham 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) having to meet and socialise with members of the public." JK (Binham 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) the staff and other members which made the last few days great." JB (Binham 2010)

"(What I enjoyed most was) working with two people I didn’t know and forming a friendship. Really great 2 days digging and one in Cambridge. Thank You." SW (Binham 2010)

"All the experts were very helpful and friendly." JK (Girton 2010)

 "A thoroughly enjoyable experience – much recommended." MW (Thorney 2010)

"I have made/learned new skills and able to talk about the new skills I’ve achieved." CF (Thorney 2010)

"I enjoyed all of it, it was a great experience and finding pottery was so much fun!" KB (Thorney 2010)

"It has been an extremely rewarding and memorable experience and I would definitely do something like this again." HB (Thorney 2010)

"Thank you so much for the opportunity of working with the people at HEFA. It has been amazing and an experience that I will never forget." LG (Thorney 2010)

"It was a highly enjoyable experience discovering things centimetres under my feet. It opened my eyes discovering things that have not been touched in hundreds of years. Thanks." LW (Thorney 2010)

"I have enjoyed working with people I haven’t met and enjoyed getting to try new experiences." BW (Thorney 2010)

"Thank you so much for this experience, I had a lot of fun and it was great to actually work in our own test pit. Thanks again xxxx" ES  (Thorney 2010)

"The staff were awesome and great. Thank you for having me. It was a wonderful experience :)" HI (Castor 2010)

"I really enjoyed the dig and the visit to Cambridge. I would definitely consider doing it all again!" OE (Castor 2010)

"HEFA has given me a great experience and helped me to learn more about University." ES (Castor 2010)

A number of themes recur repeatedly in the above comments. Particularly notable are the very high levels of overall enthusiasm and enjoyment, sentiments conveyed vividly in participants own words such as "one in a million", "one of best things ever", "a brilliant chance for everyone", "LOVED IT ALL!!!" and "AWESOME!". Again and again, participants volunteer their opinions that they enjoyed meeting new people, were impressed by the friendliness of course staff, enjoyed working with experts, enjoyed doing something difficult and/or challenging, loved the excitement of discovery, enjoyed being in new places and enjoyed doing something that they knew was important. A frequent comment is that participants would love to repeat their ILAFS experience and would enthusiastically recommend ILAFS to others.

Comments by School Staff

A high ratio of school staff to students is usually characteristic of ILAFS courses. This helps embed the experience and the sense of connection with the host university and thus the world of Higher Education within the school and after the ILAFS ends, and also allows staff a chance themselves to develop new skills, new interests and often to see the pupils they teach in a new light. Comments from school staff who have attended HEFA, which are received in written form either on reports or by e-mail, are therefore particulary useful as they are based on first-hand experience of working with the pupils on ILAFS, and also seeing them in the days, weeks and months afterwards. A few expamles of written comments from staff attending ILAFS in East Anglia in 2009 and 2010 are included below. As in the section above, individuals are identified here simply by their initials and school, but can be sourced to individuals via HEFA records if required.

"A brilliant day for them - and me, thank you!" KK (Acle 2009)

"A really enjoyable two days." BH (Carleton Rode 2009)

"Fantastic - a great opportunity for our students." SW (Carleton Rode 2009)

"This is a really excellent course. My team worked really hard throughout both days, and despite only being a team of three, got down to 80cms! It is wonderful to be able to talk to the professional and yet let the students manage the whole project themselves." PT (Coddenham 2009)

"Having attended several previous courses, I can confirm that HEFA has a very positive influence both in terms of generating enthusiasm for the discipline of archaeology and a practical engagement with the past, and ambitions for higher education." CT (Coddenham 2009)

"This experience promoted a good team atmosphere with girls and boys from differenct schools mixing easily and learning from each other." MW (Little Hallingbury 2009)

"An amazing experience for the students, it was very thought-provoking. The students felt that they had come away with a lot more information and ideas about higher education. Let's do it again!!" TL (Girton 2009)

"I enjoyed their company and was pleased to meet other students from other schools… A very useful experience which showed how determined and helpful students can be." JM (Binham 2010)

"A 'school project' that wasn't a school project… I enjoyed it immensely." DM (Binham 2010)

"The opportunity to find out about a subject that they do not study at school to broaden their view of education." GS (Binham 2010)

"The opportunity to do research and find evidence that contributes towards a larger scheme and an ongoing project." (Binham 2010)

"They loved the whole experience… Excellent for all students." GG (Acle 2010)

"I felt they really enjoyed it – getting mucky and doing actual research… It was nice to see the students in a different light as they had to adapt to change which was fantastic and felt they did really well." RG  (Thorney 2010)

"An amazing experience. On the Thursday the school was doing a rewards trip to Thorpe Park. A couple of students were thinking about doing the reward trip instead but after Day One decided they'd rather complete the course." JF (Thorney 2010)

"(The students enjoyed) meeting Cambridge ex-undergraduates and talking about College life (as well as) meeting archaeologists who worked in the field… (The HEFA experience) taught them about perseverance and the importance of accurate reporting." SS  (Thorney 2010)

Fewer staff than pupils attend ILAFS, and so there are inevitably fewer comment from them. In addition, many staff attending in 2009 and 2010 had attended previously and did not feel the need to reiterate comments made in earlier years.  'Excellent for all students' and 'let's do it again' are a common theme of staff comments. Recurring sentiments evident in comments from school staff, in 2009 and 2010 as in previous years, are the enjoyment staff found in taking part and working with learners, how much they felt that learners themselves had enjoyed and benefited from ILAFS.