E-newsletter 3

In this edition: 


Newsletter 3: March 2015

A competence oriented curriculum outline for heritage interpreters


InHerit is a Grundtvig Multilateral project and wants to create and provide training material and deliver in-service training courses on heritage interpretation to build heritage staff capacity for delivering effective competence-oriented informal learning in inspiring heritage contexts. InHerit will embed heritage interpretation in European adult education and place based learning. The project will also develop a strategy to establish heritage interpretation as a recognised profession in the museum, monuments and sites sector.

In order to achieve this, the project team first has developed a ‘heritage interpreter competence profile’. This profile is a reference framework for competences in the professional field of heritage interpretation. The team defined areas of competences which are relevant for the professional field of heritage interpretation as a whole, covering all related positions. Core competence areas are: research, planning, delivery by media and personal delivery. Additional generic competence areas are: evaluation, publicity & promotion, management and training. In each area the competences are described according to context and qualification level. These levels go along with the descriptors in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The profile allows those who develop or offer training and education to conceive and organise their course as a competence oriented course and present the learning outcomes in terms of competence development. It will also help relate the certificates or qualifications in heritage interpretation to the EQF.

Curriculum outline

A next step to clarify the approach and help in-service training course organisers organise their course was the creation of a training curriculum outline for three selected prototypical positions/roles in heritage interpretation: a Personal Heritage Interpreter, an Interpretive Copywriter and an Interpretive Site Planner. This document is conceived as an example of how the HI competence profile can be used to build a curriculum and how a competence oriented training approach leads to competence development and opportunities for validation.

Competence oriented training activities

The curriculum outline starts with an introduction to competence oriented teaching and learning. This is based on the theory that the learners learn by experience and discovery and need to be actively involved in the learning situation. They learn best in meaningful contexts, and in co-operation and interaction with others and with their environment. In organisational terms this comes down to:

·         Formulating goals in terms of competences
·         Organising a work/learning setting
·         Creating a rich learning environment that includes dilemmas, options
·         Providing realistic professional tasks and assignments
·         Providing inputs, organizing dialogues
·         Organizing reflection
·         Assessing demonstrations of competence
·         Providing feedback and suggesting further action

Description of the role and working contexts
In a next step the document provides a description of the role and working context for each prototype:
- A heritage interpreter specialized in “personal” interpretation is a typical front-line professional. Many work as volunteers, seasonal staff, or employees of the owner/management organization. They can also work for a tour operator, or as freelancers.

- An Interpretive Site Planner is able to produce interpretive plans for sites or tourism destinations.
Larger heritage organisations sometimes employ in house interpreters who can develop an interpretive plan for the entire site or for smaller areas within the site. Some organisations employ interpretation consultants from outside who contribute to the planning with their fresh external perspectives. The job also involves coordinating and supervising the work of the involved experts, integrating the goals set by the management and project funders, facilitating participatory planning processes from stakeholders …

- Interpretive Copywriter. Within the several tasks of a heritage interpreter specialised in media-based interpretation, the copywriter is the one who is competent in planning and writing the texts of interpretive products (way-signs, leaflets, booklets, panels, captions, self-guided trails, exhibitions…). They ensure that supporting infrastructures such as trails, visitor centres, museum buildings etc. fit to the interpretive narrative and serve as a suitable context for interpretive learning opportunities.

Competences and learning outcomes in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes

For each of the three positions the document describes the relevant competences and their required level in the EQF. It also describes the related knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to demonstrate the competence in the right context with a certain quality.

As an example the table below offers the competences and knowledge-skills-attitudes (KSA) for the area ‘personal delivery’ for an interpretative personal guide.





To select and apply techniques and methods appropriate for the audience, the heritage resources, and the interpreter, helping the public with various and diverse backgrounds to build in personal meanings and connections with the heritage resources

To communicate effectively and in an interpretive manner while explaining complex topics and ideas related to a site's main themes, e.g. with conflicting perspectives, in simple words and images that are easily accessible for non-expert audiences

To deliver an interpretive talk or narrative in a flexible way that relates to the participants' backgrounds while keeping on track the learning goals, the selected theme(s), the timing outlined in the interpretive plan

To make appropriate use of props, media and other materials that illustrate and support the content of the planned interpretive service

To ensure that the interpretive presentation of a theme or a theme line, despite inevitable simplifications for non-expert target audiences, is credible, appropriate and accurate

To induce and manage group processes within a group of people with diverse backgrounds and overtake the possible controversial issues arising

To answer autonomously and appropriately to the questions on facts, concepts and ideas of diverse audiences with a wider range of different attitudes, views, and feelings about the local heritage and heritage values



To know the fundamentals of groups’ psychology, dynamics and management

To know and understand the body language and non-verbal communication

To know the principles and basic techniques of dramaturgy and storytelling

To know the principles and the basic techniques for the preparation of a scenario/script


To be able to communicate effectively with the audience and to evaluate the communication practices and results

To be able to deliver personal interpretive programmes that:

-are enjoyable

To be able to use basic techniques of dramaturgy, acting and storytelling

To be able to lead a group and to manage the group dynamics and overtake the possible controversial issues arising

To be able to properly use the voice

Specific attitudes

To be a good listener
To be nice/pleasant
To be emphatic
To be charismatic
To have ability to lead (leadership)
To be sensitive
To be flexible

Good personal and non-verbal communication attitude




Outline of the course contents

In a last part the curriculum outline document describes the course outline: the didactic modules and units. For each curriculum component (e.g. developing an Interpretive Plan) the document indicates the training methodology, the learning activities and outcomes.

This way InHerit provides material and shows the way how to develop and organise a competence oriented in-service training course for heritage interpreters. Relevant elements to be taken into account are:

·         The needs for organizing the course, the aims & goals of the course
·         The target group for the course, the level and needs of the future participants
·         The level of the course, the competences – at the appropriate level – tackled by the course.
·         The setting, logistics and feasibility
·         The modules, approach, learning activities and outcomes
·         Validation of learning outcomes

Full texts are available on the project website. Follow the development of InHerit on: www.interpretingheritage.eu


Project partners

Landcommanderij Alden Biesen (coordinator) (BE)
Interpret Europe - European Association for Heritage Interpretation (DE)
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Univ. of Zagreb (HR)
Istituto Pangea Onlus (IT)
Malopolski Instytut Kultury (PL)
Platform Opleiding, Onderwijs en Organisatie (NL)
Association for Heritage Interpretation (UK)
English Heritage  (UK)
Swedish Center for Nature Interpretation (SE)