Re: Teaching undergraduates

ray scupin (scupin@LC.LINDENWOOD.EDU)
Wed, 14 Dec 1994 14:09:56 -0600

teaching introductory anthro students. I show a number of ethnographic
films such as 'Baka: The Forest People' and I have students do a writing
exercise drawing on text, lecture, and discussion materials. They are
supposed to combine the film with general issues discussed in class and
the readings to make it a "multimedia" learning experience. It
encourages them to develop an ethnographic sensibility when viewing these
films and place their observations into an appropriate context. The film
reviews are supposed to be about 3 pages long with a well-developed,
original, thoughtful conclusion.
The students appear to really learn something about the
anthropological perspective from this process.


Ray Scupin
Sociology/Anthropology Dept.
Lindenwood College
209 S. Kingshighway
St. Charles, MO 63301
314-949-4730 (Office)
314-949-9244 (Home)
314-949-4910 (Fax)

Not chaos-like, together crushed and bruised,
But, as the world harmoniously confused:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree

Alexander Pope

On Wed, 14 Dec 1994, Michael C. Stone wrote:

> This comes in very belated response to Mike Lieber's post to ANTHRO-L last
> May regarding teaching introductory anthropology. I revive the issue in
> hopes of generating some discussion on the vagaries of teaching
> undergraduates, a perennial hair-pulling topic for many here. Passages from
> Lieber's post suggest a remarkably sensibile pedagogical approach to
> involving students with the material, and giving them some responsibility
> and personal control over what they learn and how they go about learning
> more generally. Lieber wrote:
> >I use take home exams to test them on the readings (and to direct their
> >reading) -- they get the exam questions a month before the due date, and
> >I use section meetings to work on the exam questions. I encourage
> >students to work on the exam questions in groups, and plagiarism
> >consists only of copying someone else's paper.
> >...I use my Intro course as a reading comprehension course--that's made
> >very plain in the syllabus, along with an outline of how I intend to use
> >ethnographies to build up their reading skills.
> >...I don't worry about critical reading--they get plenty of that in other
> >courses. I focus on creative uses of ethnographic description to solve
> >problems, to compare contexts (patterns... I try to get them to build
> >whole system descriptions themselves
> I like this approach in that it subverts the mystification of subject
> material that seems to occur perhaps especially in anthropology, where many
> students find that their memorization and cramming orientation fails them
> miserably. "Will that be on the exam, Dr. X?" You tell me!
> I'm playing with the idea of staging a research writing assignment in
> smaller and more manageable increments to encourage early and sustained
> involvement, and to sabotage the tendency to procrastination that often
> prevails in writing projects:
> 1) statement of the research problem, together with an annotated
> bibliography of at least five scholarly sources they will use for a research
> paper (due four weeks into a semester course, with prior office
> consultations strongly encouraged).
> 2) first draft (due 7-8 weeks into the class, with staggered turn-in dates
> so I can rationalize the work load; earlier turn-ins possibly encouraged by
> a small evaluation incentive)
> 3) final paper (due during the last two weeks of the semester, as in item
> two, above)
> 4) an oral presentation of the work-in-progress either as a mid-term
> assignment, or during the last two weeks of class -- for bigger classes,
> this might have to be optional, or could take place in discussion sections
> in front of a smaller group of their student colleagues.
> 5) Each stage of the overall writing assignment would be evaluated
> independently for effort, content, and timely submission; the final paper
> also would be evaluated for adequacy of response to prior comments and
> suggestions.
> 6) In smaller, upper-division classes with what Texas calls "a strong
> writing component," I'm considering encouraging team research on more
> specialized topics (these are smaller classes, typically under 25 students).
> Any thoughts or experience with such an approach?
> 7) A query: any experience out there with having students turn in their work
> via an e-mail "drop" or via diskette? (For IBM-Windows users, there is a
> shareware program that converts MAC files from MAC diskettes inserted into
> your IBM drive -- the program is called MACette, and can be downloaded via
> FTP, Telnet, Gopher or WWW. Call your local campus computer consultants --
> just be sure to check for viruses first!). This has the virtue of providing
> a ready reference to and record of the student's prior effort, and cuts down
> on paper waste. It's also possible to bracket comments right into the
> student text, then e-mail it back to them directly. They get responses in
> real time as quickly as the instructor finishes them. This, of course, only
> scratches the surface of electronic pedagogical possibilities...
> 8) As for encouraging students to actually *read* assigned ethnographies
> (the original subject of Lieber's post), in the past I have asked for (what
> I call) an "ethnographic reader's report," written with the
> anthropologically informed potential reader in mind, less a "book report"
> than an evaluation of the work's efficacy as an ethnography. These are 500
> words maximum, enough to prime students to consider both the nature of
> ethnography and the essence of the work in question. This prepares them for
> a subsequent take-home essay question reflecting upon the work in broader
> anthropological-philosophical terms.
> That said, Human Organization 53(4) just arrived today with Michael Dean
> Murphy's timely "Episodes of Accountability in the Teaching of
> Anthropology." Any early responses to Murphy's (for me, at least)
> thoughtful and instructive reflection upon the teaching mission?
> Michael Stone
> Department of Anthropology
> University of Texas at Austin
> Austin, TX 78712