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Case Study: Introduction to Anthropology

ANTHR 102. Professor Margaret Werher, Colgate University

Please provide the course description as it appears in the catalog and the typical enrollment for the course.

This course provides an introduction to the discipline of anthropology and is intended to help students come to a better understanding of human cultures and societies through the analysis and comparison of specific cases. Students study diverse societies from a wide range of geographic areas and examine topics such as kinship and marriage, economic organization, religion, gender, and social change. Students learn about some of the major theories and theorists in anthropology and examine the way anthropologists collect and interpret data, particularly in the course of fieldwork. Enrollment is limited to first-year and sophomore students.
Typical enrollment: 30-35

What are the learning goals of the media assignment(s) in the course. If your course assignments contain both analysis and creative production components, describe the learning goals of each.

By presenting their research results in the format of an academic poster, the student will learn to:

What are the relationships of the media assignment(s) to the other aspects of the course?

The poster project is the culmination of a semester's worth of research on a topic. Prior iterations of the topic include:

In addition to the above assignments, students are responsible for reading and discussing 100 pages of text per week as well as occasional short (1-2 page) writing assignments.

Describe your assignment design/structure.

As noted above, the poster assignment is broken into several steps:

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of visual/aural literacy?

In terms of class time and grading, I focus more on the poster's content than its layout. However, I devote one class period to discussing "visual literacy," and 1/3 of their poster grade is based on the poster's visual appeal, so it is important.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of information literacy?

The assignment includes an annotated bibliography, which requires students to find, evaluate and cite five different types of sources. I stress the critical evaluation of all sources, particularly non-scholarly ones such as popular news articles and websites.

To what extent does your assignment design address issues of technology skills?

To complete this assignment, students need:

What are the resources necessary for your assignment (content/materials, institutional support, equipment)?

It's impossible to know in advance. This is one of the most severe limitations of the project, but the circumstances allow for it (i.e., the instructor is proficient in dozens of digital media software applications and is the faculty director of the facility that supports the course). Not an advisable undertaking for instructors with any reservations about their proficiency with the available technology.

Describe how you evaluated the project outcomes? Did you evaluate process? Outcomes? Both?

I used the following grading rubric to evaluate individual posters:

Since I was curious about student reaction to the assignment, I asked them verbally how difficult, intellectually challenging, time-consuming and educational they found it. I also gave them a "pop quiz" to test their recall of material in each others' posters.

Estimate the time invested in the project by you, your students, and academic support staff.

I spent an additional 5-6 hours on the poster project beyond what I would normally spend on preparing and evaluating the class. However, grading the posters was much faster than grading traditional 12-15 page essays, so it was a net gain for me in terms of time. Students probably spent an equal amount of time on the posters as they would have on a traditional paper, but the time was much more spread out over the semester because of the way the tasks were broken down, and their tasks involved much more creative tasks than normally required in a paper.

In terms of ITS and reference librarians' time, I estimate that this project required at least 25 hours of extra time. Five hours were spent planning and evaluate the project. Two hours were spent in direct instruction to the class. At least 15 hours were spent in one-on-one meetings with students.

How many times have you taught this course/assignment? What would you do differently next time?

This was the second time I assigned a poster. The process went much smoother this time than last because I met more often with ITS and library staff before, during and afterwards, and because the students were required to meet individually with ITS/library staff to go over their poster design prior to turning it into a PDF. Another successful aspect of the project was breaking down the tasks into pieces that were due throughout the semester, thus spreading out the work load for students, staff and me. And as before, the ITS and library staff were very generous and flexible with their time to accommodate student needs.

What I would do differently next time are the following:

What is your level of expertise with respect to media technologies and scholarship?

I consider myself still a neophyte in terms of using and evaluating media-based assignments like posters. However, I'm "hooked" on media-based scholarship because of the energy, interest and learning it promotes among the students. They love it, and are willing to invest lots of time and energy into this form of learning, so I will continue to experiment with ways to add media to my curriculum.