Knowledge in the Real World - HI887

Sorry, this module is not currently running in 2019-20.







Scholarly knowledge, whether generated by historians or scientists, is in demand in many settings, including – but by no means limited to – digital media, short and long-form popular writing, audio-visual media, museums and galleries, and educational contexts. There is arguably a greater public appetite than ever before for specialist knowledge, appropriately mediated. At the same time, there has been a growth in scepticism concerning 'expertise' in general, whether from pseudoscientific sources or from neo-liberal attacks on the humanities. This module equips students to understand the place and value of scholarly knowledge in society; to critically evaluate it where it is communicated within their own particular field; and to develop their own capacity to communicate knowledge..

This module is organised around a series of themes, including education, popular writing, visual media, audio-visual media, new media, and exhibition. The curriculum is flexible to allow students to follow their particular interests.

Seminars will offer the opportunity to discuss appropriate reading, to reflect critically on acts of communication that have been observed, and to generate practical projects for assessment. They are an opportunity for students to receive and discuss feedback on work they have achieved, and for giving presentations to share their experiences with other students. There will also be, separate to the seminars, the opportunity for one-to-one feedback and discussion.


Contact hours

Taught hours:
11 two-hour seminars

Private study:
Observation work – on average, students will spend two hours each week observing practitioners communicating in their own area of scholarship, whether in the flesh or via reading popularisations, watching online lectures or TV presentations, etc. Students will be responsible for finding their own sources to observe, though this will be discussed with the tutor to ensure a suitable choice is made.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by 100% coursework:

• Two essays (2500 words each). One of these will take the form of a literature review combined with a critical assessment of a case-study of knowledge in public (e.g. teaching or televisual communication observed). The other will take the form of a reflection on the place of scholarly knowledge in public arenas appropriate to the student's particular area of interest. (50% in total - 25% each)
• One practical project in a medium and to an audience of the student's choosing. The module convenor will engage in careful and ongoing discussion with the student to make sure that all projects are of equivalent sophistication and workload. Sample projects might be: the provision of a history or science event for schoolchildren; the writing of a history or science leaflet for non-specialist adults; the creation of a heritage app; substantial wiki-authoring; creating a podcast. (50%)
• Presentations to the class on project planning will be treated as non-contributory formative assessments.

Indicative reading


Frisch, M. (1999) A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History. New York: SUNY Press
Kean, H., Martin, P., and Morgan, S. (2000) Seeing History: Public History in Britain Now. London: Francis Boutle Publications
MacMillan, M. Dangerous games: The uses and abuses of history. New York: Modern Library, 2009
Cohen, D. J., & Rosenzweig, R. Digital history: a guide to gathering, preserving, and presenting the past on the web. Philadelphia: U penn, 2005
History Manifesto and subsequent debates in the American Historical Review


Gregory, J. & Miller, D. (1998) Science in Public: Communication, Culture and Credibility. New York: Plenum Trade
Nelkin, D. (1995) Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology. London: W.H. Freeman


Nichols, T. Death of Expertise. Oxford University Press, 2016
Small, H. The value of the humanities. Oxford University Press, 2013
Buckingham, D. Media education: Literacy, learning and contemporary culture. NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2013
Hartley, J., Burgess, J. E., & Bruns, A., eds. A companion to new media dynamics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013
Clark, R. P. (2013) How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times. NY: Little, Brown
Wallace, M. (2014). Writing for Museums. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield
Pinker, S. (2014) The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Harmondsworth: Allen Lane

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.:

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Understand the scope for public engagement in their scholarly specialisation, in both content and form
2. Understand the challenges of public engagement in their scholarly specialisation, including attitudes to expertise in general
3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the communication of scholarly knowledge in different media and audience contexts
4. Communicate scholarly knowledge in ways appropriate to the medium and to the different audiences and/or stakeholders involved.


The intended generic learning outcomes:

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Consider critically relevant intellectual and professional concepts in relation to public communication, and identify and solve problems.
2. Communicate knowledge effectively, creatively and accessibly, whether from the discipline of science or history
3. Work according to a different set of guidelines and approaches in key media/contexts (e.g. educational/ written/ visual/ audio-visual/ social media), instilling the concept of using all skills in a flexible manner. IT skills will be a compulsory component.
4. Evaluate, articulate and communicate the value of scholarly research sui generis in contemporary culture (strongly related, but not limited to, academic research).

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