HST681: Work Placement

15 credits (Semester: Autumn and Spring)

Module Leaders 2019-20: Dr Chris Millard (Autumn only); Marius Strubenhoff (Spring only) and Dr Mark Finney (all year)

Covid-19 update 26 March 2020

Updated information about aims, learning outcomes and assessment in response to Covid-19 is available here

You will see that we have slightly broadened the guidance for the reflective essay. If your placement has been disrupted, we are now happy for you to also draw on museums and institutions similar to the one you were working at to discuss your experience in comparative perspective. However, if you decide to do this, your placement should still remain at the centre of the essay.

Some of you may also find that work done remotely during your placement may give you unexpected additional material for the reflective essay. This may for instance be an opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges that come with using the internet as a public engagement tool in the context of the particular museum or heritage institution that you have been working at.

If you have any further queries about conceptualising and writing your reflective essay, please do not hesitate to contact us: Marius Strubenhoff / Mark Finney.

Module Summary

'I want to state at the outset that it is unhelpful to draw too firm a distinction between skills and the matter to which they are applied. Historians' skills are refined through use, that is through their application to concrete historical problems... Let us be clear that knowing lots of historical facts without any sense of how to use and interpret them is pointless... I would suggest that the important skills are tracking down information and knowing how to deploy it rather than remembering it.' Ludmilla Jordanova History in Practice (2000)

This module aims to give you an insight into the day to day workings of a museum, school or research institute, in order to develop history-specific vocational skills and promote reflection on the issues involved in disseminating history outside academia. The module provides a vocational component to the Department of History postgraduate portfolio, and may be of particular interest to those MA students not planning to pursue a PhD after their studies. You will apply for a placement from those offered at the start of the academic year and then negotiate a role within that placement relevant to your area of study. Following a placement of approximately 100 hours with an employer an essay will then be completed by you reflecting on the work you undertook. Seminars and tutorials before and after the placement will allow students to compare and contrast their experiences.

Module aims

This modules aims to provide:

  • Direct experience of a professional working environment through a placement with an historical organisation or research project.
  • Practical experience and understanding of the application of historical skills and knowledge outside academia.
  • Enhanced vocational skills, with an opportunity for students to consider their own career development.
  • An opportunity to reflect on the dissemination of historical knowledge and understanding in a public context.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. A good understanding of the functioning of a professional working environment;
  2. An ability to undertake tasks, under supervision, to a professional standard as part of a team or independently;
  3. Enhanced practical skills in the use, presentation and/or management of historical evidence;
  4. An ability to write a detailed and reflective essay on the work undertaken, and that considers the uses of history in non-academic environments and the nature of the knowledge transfer or knowledge exchange process.


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Work Placement Independent Learning
4 3 100 43

You will gain knowledge and experience of working within a professional historical environment (for example, an English Heritage property, the Humanities Research Institute, Museums Sheffield, Sheffield Archives, or a local school) during your placement. After an introductory seminar and an individual tutorial with the module convenor you will identify your own learning outcomes for the chosen placement. This plan will be subject to approval by both the convenor and the partner organisation. Following completion of the placement, you will return to the seminar room to compare and discuss your experiences. Each of you will then write an essay, reflecting on the aims and outcomes of your placement and considering the issues of knowledge transfer encountered in disseminating history to the wider public. You will, in addition, have an individual tutorial in which to discuss the work you will write for assessment for this module.

Please note that the Department is unable to provide funding to cover the cost of travel to work placement providers. You should bear this in mind when choosing the placements that you would like to apply for. 



Assessment methods
Assessment Type % of final mark Length
Plan Formative n/a 1000 words
Essay Summative 100% 3000 words

You will prepare:

  • A plan (1000 words) detailing the work to be done on the placement, the intended learning outcomes and briefly discussing the historical background to the problem that forms the context for the work. This component is not assessed.
  • An essay (3000 words) reflecting on the aims and outcomes of the placement, explaining the work done and reflecting on what you have learned about the dissemination of historical knowledge and understanding in a public context. This is worth 100% of the final mark.


*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.