The Point of Teaching

And now for something semi-intellectual (please pay no attention to the previous three posts).

A cultural anthropologist at Kansas State (yeah my old stomping grounds) wrote this article about his main research area: how to teach interactively (especially to classes of 500 students).

He discusses how to use a variety of internet methods to get the students involved in the class (ranging from wiki’s to facebook to youtube), and how he tries to avoid teaching in a standard lecture-format. Instead, he sees his job as to be the class’s manager instead of its lecturer/boss.

I’ll admit, toward the end of his article he goes a little too ah, “liberal” for me… he focuses on how he tries to inspire by telling his students they can change the world, etc. I have a hard time seeing how to make a convincing story line for that in paleoanthro classes, but still find it an interesting idea.

Any of you have thoughts/opinions on how to do this or the usefulness of trying to do this for our future classes?

5 thoughts on “The Point of Teaching

  1. i think i hold a minority view, but to me, the pursuit of science is ultimately pointless unless some aspect of it can be used to improve the world in some way. even if it is a stretch, i think it’s a good way to look at things…was it einstein (?) that said, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” framing is really important…i think that’s the only thing i learned from trads. that and the word “habitus” which i plan to misuse, on purpose, more often.

  2. not having read the article (as i am working on my trads final right now) i have to say WOW caroline – of course paleoanthro classes can change the world!Have you read our advisor’s book? Not Paleoanthropology but Race and Human Evolution along with Trinkaus and Shipman’s book provide excellent examples of how these things are real world applicable.Especially considering the fact that your home-state doesn’t even teach evolution in schools!PS this is the whole reason i am an anthropologist. I have many words on this…later – post not failing trads…

  3. ok, obviously my remarks were not clear. i personally believe that paleoanth/evolution-type topics are important to understand, or else i wouldn’t be here. i think the difficulty is presenting this in a convincing manner to undergrads (especially ones who are taking an intro course to fill a requirement, and don’t really care about the subject on their own). it’s a story that gets lost easily, especially in normal lecture formats (which is what the paper by Wesch addresses) – i think it’s easier to make a story around cultural anthro (what it means to the world TODAY) than it is for paleoanth (since folks often shy away from anythign to do with the past – history or prehistory). i’ve read most of race and human evolution, and trinkhaus/shipman is on my list of summer reading.

  4. As someone who has taught high school-level subject material, I cannot agree more with Wesch’s perspectives on teaching. He offers sound commentary on an increasingly complex problem surrounding education, expectation, and measures of success in academic environments. With respect to CRFM & CMVS, too often scientific information is misused/ misquoted/ poorly understood to advance a priori convictions and agendas (see Kansas & Dover, PA). The role of a science educator isn’t to justify the importance of subject for the subject sake to a student, but to encourage and promote sound logic and reasoning when approaching problems. This will carry with the student beyond the classroom, and they will eventually come to realize the importance of understanding whatever you were trying to relate in the first place (evolutionary theory, etc.). We can’t live in the Ivory Tower forever.

  5. ooh, dave, good point. wish i had thought of it! speaking from my undergrad experience, i’ll admit my favorite classes were the ones where i was expected to form logical arguments and held responsible for my opinions on whatever the topic of the day was.

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