I have been teaching cultural and physical anthropology, archaeology, and magic,
witchcraft, and religion for almost two decades. During this time I feel that I have greatly
improved in my teaching of anthropology and in my understanding of my students needs.
I am writing this section for new teachers of anthropology, specifically for those who
have newly chosen to teach. While I would never presume to tell anyone how to teach
(teaching is an art after all), I would like to make some suggestions and observations
about the teaching of anthropology.
A Philosophy of Teaching Introductory Anthropology
Teaching anthropology is generally quite a challenge at the lower-division level of
college. Whether you are teaching cultural or physical (biological) anthropology, the
concepts are so new to your students that many are challenged in their beliefs and even
sometimes emotionally challenged to deal with the content of the course.
Introductory anthropology is very powerful. Students are often changed by exposure
to the material in your courses. Much more so than an economics course or business law,
students find many relevant ties between the course material and the life-experiences they
have shared with their classmates.
Culture is a concept that helps students identify behavior for what it is: learned. Many
experiences in your student's lives become clear once they have examined the content of
the course in question. You, the teacher, can use this to your advantage. There are almost
no subjects in anthropology that are not of interest to people. Ask your students to
elaborate on their own experiences or observations as you discuss (lecture) the various
topics. Students can often add so much to the class that they may feel they "own" the
ideas. This level of learning is quite satisfying to everyone involved. Of course, this will
lead to better learning and even more importantly, will make your students better able to
deal with the world in general.
Physical (biological) anthropology is a course that has the power to change whole
attitudes about humanity. Students are often surprised to learn the results of biological
and genetic investigations into who Homo sapiens sapiens is and is not. Furthermore, the
detailed description of the evolution of humans from our earliest ancestors to ourselves is
quite exciting and revealing to many. This is often the course that clears up the questions
people have about their origins.
Anthropology, then, has a major emotional component to it. Rather than avoiding this
and trying to be sterile in your approach, use it to show students who they are. Share the
power of anthropology with them and both you and your students will be changed for the
Using This Manual
The Preface of this manual describes its mechanics. An instructor's manual is an odd
reference book in that we all feel that we are experts in what we teach. The purpose of
this manual is to provide more resources for you. Finding the time to research films,
readings, web sites, and even ancillary discussion material can be quite challenging if you
have to teach multiple subjects. This manual was written to simply supply you with
additional help. Pick and choose what you want from it. It was written for you.
Student Writing Projects
Writing in anthropology is analogous to completing calculations in a math class.
Anthropology is best learned through student writing. For students to truly apply the
knowledge they have acquired through the content of your course they must synthesize it
into some type of paper. This may be accomplished through the completion of a term
paper, annotated bibliography, or even a case study. Many possibilities for writing
projects exist for your students. This instructor's manual contains many suggestions for
them. You may even want to have students select there own from a list you create or
completely on their own.
Your job is to teach your students the proper format in which to complete the
assignment. It is also to show them how anthropological studies from all over the world
can be applied to their own lives. Finally, students can come to some deeper
understanding of human behavior through writing. It is quite fun to watch students
"discover" that what "those people" somewhere across the world do is for the same
reasons that "we" do it.
Using Visual Media
Many films in anthropology are readily available. Most films are available on the
videotape format. Video imagery is a very powerful tool in this field. What may just be
concepts and ideas to students instantly come alive as they watch a hunt or see how a
shaman actually performs a healing ceremony. But don't waste the experience. Films
lend themselves to analysis. Students are very good at discussing filmed portrayals of
content material. Many anthropology films are case studies of topical material used in
your course so they can be quite helpful in discussing the concepts in a "real-world"
context. I find it quite helpful to have students look over a series of questions I have
developed about the film beforehand. Just after the film, have them answer the questions
in essay form and then you may have the basis for a very good discussion. It has been
my experience that you can draw many more students into the discussion than normal if
they have prepared essays in advance. Almost everyone wants to share his or her
Writing Tests and Using Test Banks
Testing is possibly the most critical portion of the course (to your students). Students live
and breathe tests for obvious reasons. While you are trying to share ideas with them, they
are trying to find out "what is on the test." This is a pretty standard teaching conflict.
Students are only doing what is best for them; while you are trying to do what you think
is best for them.
Writing your own test is always the best answer to the question of what to test. Write
questions that lead to student learning. While factual questions are quite necessary, try to
write questions that challenge a student’s ability to synthesize information. Even true-
false questions can do this if they are written in such a way as to ask a question in a
question (i.e. a two or three part question where each part relies on the other for its
integrity). But, of course, the best questions to ask, in almost any anthropology courses
are essay questions. Either a complete essay test or one where essay questions make up a
good proportion of the test is great. Essay questions challenge a student to synthesize
material and express it in a way necessary for future success: the written form.
Furthermore, essay tests test student learning in the way in which they experienced the
material: synthetically. Students generally do not study anthropology to learn obscure
facts and you probably don't teach if for that reason either. Finally, teachers are heavily
criticized for not having their students complete enough writing. Essay writing is one
answer to that criticism.
As the author of the test bank for the text I would like to leave you with a few words of
advice. Be cautious in your choices of questions. Don't pick questions randomly. Make
an effort to match questions with the content you delivered. I have written many
questions per chapter. You may not have covered much of that material. I have also left
you with many essay questions to select from. You may want to use those just for ideas
in order to create your own. Remember: Your own test is always the best.
I hope that you enjoy the use of this manual and more importantly continue to have fun
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