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Who Teaches the Teachers?

In 2008, the Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education surveyed more than 3,000 PhDs to help “assess the career paths of PhDs and the quality of doctoral education in U.S. social science programs.” Many of their findings are very interesting in their own right, but Table 17 is the starting point for this post: only 37% of the respondents reported that there was formal instruction in teaching available in their doctoral programs; fewer than that (34%) reported formal supervision and evaluation of their teaching.

This raises the question: How, where, and when do most anthropologists who go on to teach learn how to teach?

Assuming that the answer is that most anthropologists are self-taught in the ways of the classroom through failure and success, I thought our autodidacts might be interested in some resources.

This 1999 Science article offers some good reflections on the topic. Its suggestions for resources include: Talk about teaching with your colleagues.

For some, with limited departmental or extradepartmental possibilities, this is harder to do and these readers might want to check out the AAA Teaching Materials Exchange to help pool and share ideas. Contribute your assignments, ideas, and syllabus. Investigate new readings and fresh discussion ideas. Contact your fellow teachers.

For others, this chatter might be virtual. The RAI developed a teaching forum. A huge number of our members have blogs (Anthro Brown Bag, Living Anthropologically, and Neuroanthropology come to the fore of my mind because they have content on teaching) for exploring and honing pedagogical ideas.

In the meanwhile, maybe you want to share your story of how, where and when you learned how to teach anthropology.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for this! I’ve recently tried to do a survey for a four-field Introduction to Anthropology Syllabus and would encourage more submissions to the Teaching Materials Exchange.

  2. Thanks for this post…. it raises some interesting points outside of a US context as well. I think its important to reflect upon the variety of pre-doctoral disciple backgrounds that many anthropology lecturers bring to their teaching. Its just a hazardous guess but I can imagine a large percentage of doctoral anthropologists began in other disciplines – many including teaching.
    I have been taught by anthropologists who had backgrounds in education and I myself have clocked up a few years experience in language and social work teaching – of which I believe without my critical anthropologist take on my subjects it would be very stale teaching by now!
    I have taken advantage of pedagogic and teacher training in my Post Grad years and as a junior lecturer because I have observed that once established and heavy with research and publishing responsibilities- honing your teaching skills becomes a little lower on priorities.
    Projects like the teaching materials exchange are an excellent way to work collaboratively with others and refresh approaches to material and should offer some cross-discipline inspiration.

  3. One of the best relatively inexpensive methods for learning about classroom presentation is Toastmasters International. http://www.toastmasters.org/

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