Professor Alan Outram

Runner-up for Best Supervisor (Taught)

Research-led learning

Name Professor Alan Outram
Email A.K.Outram@exeter.ac.uk
Position Head of Archaeology
College College of Humanities

The importance of active, accessible research

Alan Outram is a Zoo Archaeologist, whose work concentrates on animals, and their relationship with humans, throughout the past. A specific focus of his research is the domestication of the horse in Central Asia.

Alan expresses how important it is for academic research to affect the wider community: “If a subject like Archaeology has any value at all, it is because people are interested in it, and if it is because people are interested in it, we have to make sure that the general public have access to the information we are generating, and that it is presented to them in a way that is interesting and engaging.” A lot of information from archaeological research is presented through radio and television programmes, which has to be taken into consideration when researching.

“A subject like Archaeology, though, isn’t just a subject on its own. It is not just for people that are interested in the past… It also interweaves with other subject areas. For instance, somebody who is studying earthquakes might need to know how often those earthquakes occur… During a particular span of time, it might be through damage that was done by earthquakes that were noted on archaeological sites… The importance of the subject and its impact is actually beyond mere public interest in the subject.”

International field trips

It is compulsory for students to go on field trips for their training, but often students are actually involved directly in real research. Undergraduate and postgraduate students are able to visit archaeological sites abroad, such as in Kazakhstan. Alan describes one example where students were working in North America on a Native site, where one student “analysed the bones from a particular feature, which turned out to be the very specific extraction of bone grease from bison bones” and “that was something we were able to write-up and publish as a paper with that student as a co-author”.

Engaging students through supervision

“I think that good supervision of taught student dissertation work comes about when you can nurture the particular interests of that student, and allow them to investigate the things that are really fascinating to them, and support them in doing that by making yourself available to them to discuss those extensively.” Alan believes facilitation of primary research is key to being a good supervisor, which enables the students’ educational experience to become “so much more real to them”.

Aim 3: Research-inspired, inquiry-led learning
To extend the opportunities for students to learn in innovative ways through their own research and inquiry

Active and engaging research

"If students can see that they are able to engage with cutting-edge research, it certainly has to make it more exciting".

Importance of practical experience

 “Practical experience in real research is going to add an awful lot more insight than just simply learning from a dry textbook”.