Scientific article
Open access

Learning About Archaeology and Prehistoric Life

Published inScience and Education, vol. 28, no. 6.7, p. 759-795
Publication date2019

This article is about an intervention introducing prehistoric life in primary education. Its objectives were to foster openness and interest for prehistory and archaeology, as well as content knowledge and conceptual learning with a focus on four main facets: basic knowledge about prehistoric life; conceptual learning/change regarding prehistory; learning about archaeologists and archaeology as a scientific discipline; and learning about interactions of archaeology and other disciplines (interdisciplinarity). Students participated in two workshops about the creation of a prehistoric object, highlighting the close interaction between the natural sciences and humanities within archaeology. The workshop emphasised dialogue between students, teachers and researchers, as well as active participation by the students. The educational effects of the workshops were studied using a pre-post design (N = 439, ages 8–10 years). Results show that the workshops had sizeable positive effects on both affective and cognitive variables. The appreciation of the workshops ranged from ≈ 70 to 90% (of maximum value) for interest, perceived educational value and further aspects. We also found a positive impact of the intervention on cognitive variables, e.g. for several elements of key knowledge about prehistory (such as where prehistoric people lived and with what resources; medium to large effect sizes: d > 0.9 and d = 0.46, respectively). Regarding conceptual learning, we found improved understanding of the link between climate change and long-term changes in wildlife in a given area (medium to large effect sizes, d = 0.5–0.8). A positive impact was also found for the understanding of archaeology encompassing both humanities and the natural sciences (e.g. understanding of climate change as inferred from archaeological knowledge, d = 0.3–0.5). No differences of the various outcomes were found between girls and boys; the workshops appear suitable for both genders. We conclude with a discussion of the interpretation of our findings, of some limitations and possible improvements, and of future perspectives, in particular for further classroom implementation.

  • Archéologie
  • Préhistoire
  • Europe
  • Didactique
  • Enseignement
  • Ecole Primaire
  • Interdisciplinarite
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - CRGAI1_145643
Citation (ISO format)
BESSE, Marie et al. Learning About Archaeology and Prehistoric Life. In: Science and Education, 2019, vol. 28, n° 6.7, p. 759–795. doi: 10.1007/s11191-019-00047-z
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0926-7220

Technical informations

Creation06/03/2019 10:16:00 AM
First validation06/03/2019 10:16:00 AM
Update time03/15/2023 5:12:02 PM
Status update03/15/2023 5:12:01 PM
Last indexation02/12/2024 11:40:55 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack