Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pedagogy and Working With Documents

I've been working on the book this morning (yay), and took some time out to mess around online while I switched gears (moving from checking sources to writing).

School starts soon, and I'm always interested in improving my teaching. I teach drive-by introductions to various subfields in anthropology; this semester it is physical anthropology. There is SO much to cover in one of these introductory courses, that I just can't. I want to give my students a tasting of all the various things you can do as a physical anthropologist, how it is relevant, how dynamic a field it is, a basic understanding of the processes of natural selection, the importance of biodiversity, and an overview of hominid evolution that ties together physical evolution and cultural development. Still an awfully tall order for 13 weeks of lectures. Yes, I could just yammer at them (and have... and will again, I'm sure), but I want them to think about and engage with the material. I want them to roll it around, compare it to their beliefs and experiences, play "what if," and ask questions - of themselves, their classmates, and me.

I'm always tweaking the course; modifying assignments, messing with lectures, etc. I don't want to emphasize style over substance, but would like my classes to be more engaged. As I was muddling about the 'net this morning, I found this: Secrets of Great History Teachers part of the History Matters: The US Survey Course on the Web. I've skimmed just a couple of the entries, but it looks like there are some good ideas in there, even for non-history teaching (though some have proposed that aren't all studies of the past history?; I will have more on that). I will have to pick out one or two to try.

Also part of the History Matters website is a section called Making Sense of Evidence, with tons of material on working with maps, diaries, letters, ads, speeches, newspapers, etc. I use primary documents all the time; good to get a refresher in approaching them (that, and I'm trying to incorporate more historiography into my historical archaeology).

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