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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.

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.

YouTeach: Films in the Anthropology Classroom

The right film with the right conversation can transform a classroom by illustrating for students what words alone cannot animate. As the fall semester gets underway, I thought I’d round up some of the best lists about teaching anthropological concepts with videos.

As S. Elizabeth Bird and Jonathan Godwin compellingly illustrate in their study (AAA members can access the article for free through AnthroSource by first logging in and then going to Anthropology & Education Quarterly Vol 37, No. 3: p. 285), good visual material needs context and clear connections to the concepts being taught in class, or else a professor may inadvertently reinforce ethnocentric stereotypes.

The following three recent lists include video that is used by your anthropological colleagues, but also provide some context for the types of conversations that might be
catalyzed:

  1. The Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges details films used by its members
  2. The blog Somatosphere has a post detailing films used in medical anthropology classes
  3. The Royal Anthropological Institute created lists by thematic topic (scroll down to section “Using Ethnographic Films”)

In addition to these tried and true filmographies, the AAA’s Teaching Materials Exchange includes more than 100 syllabus. Many, many classes use fascinating visual materials to teach about gender, religion, and human rights. Here are some specific materials you might search out to see how the professor is using film:

  • Jason Antrosio’s ENVIRONMENTAL ANTHROPOLOGY SYLLABUS
  • David Ayers’ MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Eriberto Lozada’s INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOCULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Amy Margaris’ INTRODUCTION TO ARCHAEOLOGY
  • Ann Ross’ INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Lois Stanford INTRODUCTION TO WORLD CULTURES

Teaching Excellence

Is good teaching like pornography in that we know it when we experience it, but we struggle to define it? This post considers teaching evaluation and prods (well, maybe more like fumbles around) the topic of classroom excellence.

My first thought, working in publishing, is peer review. Alexander Sidorkin writes in the introductory issue of Syllabus,

“[t]his journal is an attempt to recognize teaching by publishing the best syllabi, those that often go unrecognized.”

The journal peer reviews syllabus and its first Table of Contents include seven from across the humanities and liberal arts. The American Sociological
Association has also launched Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, a peer-reviewed database of activities and syllabi.

My next thought turns to how students see the evaluation, indeed the educational, project. Naturally anthropologists have answers: They have studied the evaluation (as
Alicia Blum-Ross does in her article on “Teaching Evaluation”) and the undergraduate student, as done by Michael Moffatt in Coming of Age in New Jersey and Peter Magolda in “Life as I Don’t Know It.” These anthropologists describe how students view learning and campus life and how professors might engage students in evaluation experiences beyond the fleeting RateMyProfessor soundbyte.

A last lens of excellence might be prizes. The AAA/Oxford University Press Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the SMA MASA Graduate Student Mentor Award both honor teaching. Probably closer to home, most colleges and universities have several teaching awards and probably most anthropologists do not think to pursue
these badges, but probably they should.

The AAA’s Resource Development Committee raised the funds to build a Teaching Materials Exchange to help anthropologists locate new ideas about readings, assignments, and topics to keep their students’ interest in anthropology piqued and their classrooms vibrant. Add your materials to the discipline pool our best knowledge and ideas. Collective learning might comprise another dimension of teaching excellence.

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