Dr Alison Twells is a historian in the Department of Humanities at Sheffield Hallam University. Over the past decade, she has developed pioneering modules that enable students to explore the relationship between history, heritage and regeneration in South Yorkshire and the north of England more broadly and to work in partnership with public and community-based historians. Alison has also developed the website South Yorkshire Through Time, which is a hub for community history and a collaboration between students, academics, the public and community historians.
Alison’s teaching and research are shaped by her own exhilarating experience of studying ‘history from below’ as an undergraduate at the University of Sussex. She is interested in the production and uses of history in a range of contexts. As well as academic publications, she has written resources for schools’ history, a heritage walk and a work of creative nonfiction. She has led a research project into community-based history and wellbeing and has explored the transformative nature of partnership work for students, in terms of developing understanding of the importance of history and heritage in their own communities, increasing awareness of new possibilities for future careers and raising confidence and self-esteem. In the words of one former student:
“Doing the Community History module really changed everything for me. I’ve always been proud to be from Barnsley and tried to take a stand against the stereotyping of the area. This module was motivation to become part of the regeneration of town…Through making oral history recordings for the module, I became a contributor to the museum and I was invited to volunteer with the family activities during the school holidays. When the museum opened in June 2013, I was there as a full-time member of staff.”
National Teaching Fellow (2002) Professor Alan Booth has written that Alison’s teaching “promotes student agency in ways that are academically rigorous yet encourage an engaged exploration of person and place. Her courses in fact do what all history degree programmes should aim to do but all too rarely achieve – transform student thinking, learning and lives”.