A diplomatic-informed archival pedagogy: Fostering student-centered learning environments for novice archival researchers

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Purpose - This paper begins to construct a theoretical foundation for using a diplomatics-informed pedagogy that specifically addresses common concerns in archival instruction in a higher education environment. The authors utilize Self-Determination Theory to define student-centeredness and provide empirical guidance for creating a learning environment supporting student motivation, persistence, and academic achievement. The proposed framework provides both structure and theoretical grounding for the archivist while also cultivating a learning environment which effectively motivates novice researchers. Design/methodology/approach - The authors draw on diplomatics and archival instructional literature to propose an instructional framework utilizing Self-Determination Theory. Research limitations/implications - This is a conceptual paper and based on subjective analysis of existing literature and theory. The proposed framework has not been tested in a practical application but it is based in the pedagogical foundations of diplomatics and Self-Determination Theory's focus on student perceptions and motivations. Findings - A diplomatic-informed pedagogy is a new, theoretically viable approach to archival instruction for novice researchers intending to replace common archival orientation and competency-based instruction. This pedagogical approach also provides a reproducible structure to the instructional archivist, helping to organize classroom learning outcomes, assessments, and activities in alignment with evidence-based research and well-established archival theory. Originality - Diplomatics, the foundation of archival science and legal theory, can be applied pedagogically to provide concrete guidance to teach students to use archives in more intentional, creative, and disciplinary authentic ways. Diplomatics gives the instructional archivist a pedagogical foundation, structure, and guiding methodology to approaching novice researchers in the archives while Self-Determination Theory presents how to implement such an approach.


This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) license.


Archives, Self-determination theory, Student motivation, Archival instruction, Diplomatics, Student-centered teaching and learning environments


Dearborn, C. and Flierl, M. (2023), "A diplomatic-informed archival pedagogy: fostering student-centered learning environments for novice archival researchers", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 79 No. 3, pp. 743-756. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-06-2022-0128