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Aug. 23, 2017

Picturesque landscapes, the warm Mediterranean climate, and ancient artefacts dating as far back as 4,000 BC — archaeology in the Greek countryside is the best of both worlds, says Wilfrid Laurier University Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Heritage Studies Scott Gallimore.

It is pure passion for this classic and hands-on archaeology that has put Gallimore on course for tenure in fall 2017 and making him recipient of the 2017 Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“It’s amazing to know that students appreciate your teaching — it keeps you going forward and lets you know that you’re on a good foundation to keep pushing the boundaries,” says Gallimore.

The OUSA award is presented annually to instructors, at universities throughout the province, who engage with students in a positive and engaging way. Recipients are nominated and selected by each university’s students.

Gallimore teaches classical history and foundational archaeology at the first- and second-year levels, as well as broader archaeology courses at the third- and fourth-year levels, including a course on the archaeology of disasters.

“I’ve gone outside of my own comfort level in the past couple of years to explore topics that students are interested in,” says Gallimore. “Teaching new areas of archaeology has been one of the best ways for me to gain new understandings.”

Gallimore and his colleagues in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies have also been embracing experiential learning as a key pillar of how they educate students.

For the past five years, Gallimore has also been taking groups of 10 to 25 students to Greece for close to six weeks as part of a field course. The hands-on credit, which is a requirement for Laurier’s honours archaeology program, has been taking place for approximately 40 years.

“During the field course we work on a particular site where students really get to experience archaeology — and in turn, they often give me a lot of insight,” says Gallimore. “It’s how my teaching and research go hand in hand and inspire each other — in archaeology you can’t have one without the other in a lot of ways.”

Outside of the fieldwork courses, Gallimore has started to use active learning classrooms when teaching on campus. The physical environment in these spaces allows for more student-centred learning activities with greater collaboration. “I find that students engage much better with material through active learning classrooms, where the change is something as simple as sitting at round tables instead of students facing the back of each other’s heads,” says Gallimore. “The collaboration and group discussions I see really complement the lab and field work we do in archaeology.”

Gallimore has also found himself opening up his teaching approach to greater experimentation. Recently, the final assignment for one of his fourth-year courses required that students visualize their understanding of archaeology theory.

“Whether it was a cartoon or a graph and the use of examples or metaphors, I was blown away by the quality of assignments — the originality and ideas that were submitted,” he says. “As a professor, you’re always a little nervous when you design a new type of assignment, but the passion and understanding that my students offered means I’ll definitely use this assignment again.”

“I think experiential learning is one of the reasons why I won the OUSA award,” he says. “It also says that we in the department are on the right track.”

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