Experience-rich anthropology

Experience-rich anthropology

Enhancing the teaching and learning of anthropological concepts by widening student experience using anthropological field materials.

Area of teaching and learning development

Our project will expand and improve experience-grounded teaching and learning based upon a wide range of anthropological field media. It will provide a sustained impetus towards the wider use of field data in teaching and learning anthropology by working with a group of institutions making individual contributions to a common approach. The consortium is scaled to be effective and manageable within the funding available but large enough to act as a critical mass to influence the future direction of teaching and learning anthropology in the UK. Our dissemination strategy is designed to continue well beyond the lifetime of the project.

We are a consortium of anthropology departments who were assessed in the 1995 QA, one Scottish department and two additional partners in related fields. The lead site, UKC, was rated as excellent in its QA (report Q240/95).

The aims of the project

Anthropology defines itself in terms of the collection and analysis of primary data derived from life in human groups and the comparison of these results. In particular, the 'fieldwork experience' is seen by many anthropologists as formative and crucial for the development of an anthropological understanding. However, the conventional anthropology curriculum is formally based almost entirely on the assimilation of a body of readings in conjunction with discussion of these materials. As class sizes rise, reliance on these 'secondary' views of anthropology have increased, isolating students further from the 'primary' experience of 'doing' anthropology. In the past this was conveyed informally in small-group sessions by teachers relating their personal experience and those of their colleagues. Informal teaching and learning resources are increasingly restricted to those few students involved in a research methods course or in post-graduate work.

Informal transmission of experience is being threatened by current pressures of numbers. Formalisation is a means to its survival. Changes in scale imply that existing good practice will not perpetuate since personal presentations of experience do not work in the same way in large groups. Instead techniques must be developed to convey the immediacy of experience to individual students however large and heterogeneous a group they may comprise. If these techniques are efficient they can be used to introduce the experiential based teaching of anthropology in new places in the curriculum.

We aim to expand and develop experience-grounded teaching and learning of anthropology in the UK, based on the (direct) use of research data and results in teaching. This method of teaching is well-suited for anthropology, and is informally well established. We will formalise and expand a long-established informal teaching technique to ensure that it continues in the face of the coming pressures of the next century by developing resources that can be fitted into existing courses to enhance our students' teaching and learning experience. Experience gained by research is expensive - consortium members alone have undertaken research funded well in excess of two million sterling over basic HEFCE block allocations during the past research review period. We seek means by which more research can be exploited directly in the teaching and learning process.

For this proposal we are defining five tasks:

a) to identify where and how experience-grounded teaching and learning is currently used within the UK HE Sector.

b) to identify additional opportunities for incorporating experience-grounded teaching and learning in existing curricula.

c) to process field materials into resources to support these opportunities

d) to package these resources into elements for use by the UK HE Sector.

e) to produce explicit guidance for developing a range of elements in future.

Existing information will be incorporated into curriculum-exploitable form ranging from: a few inter-related tables with commentary to complete databases; a few fragments of fieldnotes to complete longitudinal sets of fieldnotes covering 40 years; photographs to video productions. Related material, such as recorded interviews with senior anthropologists and commentary by field workers will also be used.

Where necessary we will abstract 'experience' from the source of the experience (individual anthropologists) providing enough context to accompany fieldwork-derived information so that it can be used by students in different supervised and unsupervised contexts. In principle, this is not very difficult, though it can be very time-consuming depending on the scale of the material (see Method).

The types of material we will use is based entirely on the kinds of materials that anthropologists collect in the course of their research (in particular materials already available to the consortium), and will be organised along conventional guidelines for using this material. We will:

1 Incorporate primary research data into the teaching and learning process, including:

a) field notes from ethnographic research

b) audio elements

c) visual elements (still photography, video, film)

d) databases

e) computer programs, simulations etc.

f) other field materials

2 Introduce units which explicitly employ the elements of 1 in a comparative framework, using especially:

a) existing collections of field data which have been developed by anthropologists.

b) existing computer programs which have been developed by anthropologists for this purpose.

We will improve the suitability of existing material for incorporation into existing courses, initially as curriculum support elements by the consortium members, and disseminated out from the consortium core by workshops, course books, CDROMs and Internet access. Developments in curriculum within the consortium are intended to be permanent. Dissemination will continue beyond the lifetime of the project using public network-based IT delivery methods, among others.

The units (support elements) will be based on experience within the consortium, a recent study by the DflorinEE funded National Network for Teaching and Learning Anthropology, Report on Teaching and Learning Social Anthropology in UK (in which several of the consortium members participated), a project in curriculum development by anthropologists at Edinburgh (a consortium member), the Grillo Report (ASA 1984), and the result of Kent's efforts over the past decade to broaden the anthropology programme more explicitly to arts-and-science based teaching and learning using information technology.


Consortium members are contributing existing materials (from completed research) to be further developed into teaching and learning elements. In a minority of cases some of the consortium members have been working with the products of research in teaching for more than a decade (e.g. UKC and Cambridge in electronic media). In many cases the materials have already been identified and compiled. Our main effort will be devoted to contextualising and establishing a sustainable library of such elements.

General objectives of the method are:

1. To provide means by which teaching and learning resources can be economically produced, and

2. to provide a selected set of resources which have been tested in practice and which in addition to their role as viable course components can serve as examples in how such experience-grounded teaching and learning elements can be produced.

3. To create and support the infrastructure which facilitates continuous dissemination for the indefinite future.

4. To produce guidelines to achieve consistency and uniformity between such elements.

In order to achieve these we will:

a) Identify how and where experience-grounded teaching and learning is currently used within the consortium, including: a) individual discussions between Fischer/Zeitlyn and teachers, b) preparatory workshop for consortium members, c) reviewing TQA submissions of the consortium to assess current formal practice. For details please see Appendix II: 1.6.

b) Identify opportunities for incorporating experience-grounded teaching and learning, including: analysis of changes in working practices, b) individual practices that can be extended to others, c) new opportunities for experience-grounded teaching and learning, and d) generalisation of existing materials for use by other teachers. Materials will be presented in new and established media (e.g. print, image and digital). Please see Appendix II: 1.7, 1.8 for details.

c) Develop field materials as resources to support these opportunities, including: a) identifying usable ways for presenting material for teaching and learning, b) further specification by the teachers for their specific teaching purposes, and c) to identify efficient means of dissemination of the material. Please see Appendix II: 1.9 for further details.

e) Package these elements with guidance for their use by the UK HE Sector.The conceptual analysis discussed in c) above will identify a range of possible different experienced based teaching and learning elements for social anthropology.

Example: Dr. Schwimmer at Manitoba has developed an on-line kinship tutorial (which is used by at least two members of the consortium). In this he uses Professor Stirling's work on Turkey (in an on-line version developed at UKC) as a worked example. To do this he provides hypertext cross links to access selectively the kinship content of our on-line version. This is an important illustration of the re-use of existing teaching material. Material provided by one teacher for one purpose (initially: the ethnography of Turkey) is found useful by another to teach a different subject: kinship in general. In addition it demonstrates how WWW provides a consistent uniform interface to a wide variety of data. Technical note: Schwimmer's material is on an IBM PC, Stirling's at UKC on a UNIX host.

f) Produce explicit guidance for developing a range of elements in future. Documentation of the material for use of teaching staff and templates for new material.

A further aspect of this development programme will be to provide methods, guidance and tools for teachers to incorporate their own material into teaching elements - so that although the project may provide a set of exercises relating to topics in the study of kinship which use material from our own research there will be clear mechanisms for incorporating other material as examples. The collaborating sites will be particularly involved in preparing other material for incorporation into courses which are not explicitly concerned with computers. They will also act as test sites for the material to be developed by the project.

UWE, Cambridge and UKC have considerable experience in related approaches. We plan to formalise the expertise to provide protocols or paradigms for teachers to package teaching elements, offering practical guidance to temper their levels of ambition.

Teaching elements from this course will be tested and evaluated by all consortium members. We hope that the established anthropology departments in the consortium may be able to benefit from some of the teaching methods used at TVU and UWE in order to maintain excellence in the face of vastly increasing pressures of numbers.

Design criteria to be applied are:

a) The elements must be fully documented so that different themes can be addressed. General and detailed levels of use must be possible and whenever possible, separable.

b) Access to the material must be provided in as uniform a manner as possible, so students having learnt to use one element can easily use another.

c) The material included can be used in existing anthropology curricula.

d) They must be implemented in ways that are accessible to most students and teachers in the UK HE sector (e.g. we envisage the material will be made available on paper, video or in WWW accessible format, rather than, for example, on video disc).

e) Some level of development of these elements will be possible within the scale of a typical University curriculum/staff/educational development grant (e.g. c. 200-1000). In particular, to constrain teacher ambitions to the pragmatically attainable.

Initially we will exploit the available resources of the Kent first year course, Computing for Social Anthropologists (for details see Appendix II: 1.9), now in its eleventh year, which remains the only full such course in UK and which received special mention in the 1995 QA (Q240/95 pp 3, 5). The overall aims of the course include teaching our students basic information technology, but the primary aim is to extend their learning experience in anthropology. From its inception it was designed to introduce experience-grounded elements using field work material from members of staff at Kent and elsewhere. It includes topics ranging from kinship to indigenous knowledge systems using methods which are impossible (or impractical) to replicate using conventional approaches. In addition to this some general data resources have been established on the WWW by Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing (CSAC) staff over the last three years. Besides providing a ready source of teaching and learning elements in different anthropological topics, experience in teaching the course has given the department experience in building such elements. We have recently received a small UKC Academic Development Award to develop a course book.

This material satisfies some of the above criteria, but not all of them. The implementation strategy will be to take existing tested elements and repackage them for wider use so they fulfil the design criteria. Testing these by classroom use will permit the criteria to be evaluated and modified. In the second year some new material will be packaged to meet the revised design criteria. Such material already exists but is not currently being widely used in teaching.

We will convert the existing UKC course into separable elements to be used independently as part of mainstream anthropology teaching as per Appendix II, 1.10. In order to ensure wider compatibility, material from other consortium members will be worked on at this stage. Conversion to WWW formats will remedy these problems and provide a sustainable dissemination method.

Project Deliverables and Dissemination Strategy

The dissemination strategy aims to be transparent:

1) A major form of dissemination will be through direct inclusion of the deliverables in the curricula of the consortium members, who make up about a third of all departments in the UK. The staffing costs in the project represent an important aspect of this strategy, since our initial elements require working through a set of problems in the production and implementation at individual programmes, documenting this process, and writing guidance for future practice including results from monitoring and evaluation of the elements, the staff and the students. The combination of tasks revolving around design, implementation, adjustment, documentation, evaluation and writing of guidance fully warrant a half-time post in the contributing consortium members. The coordinator post is primarily responsible for working with these staff members, independently evaluating the elements at each site, discussing these with students and staff and coordinating the experiences of the local staff hired for this phase, as well as producing the final documentation and guidance.

2) The deliverables will be publicised and distributed to all UK departments of anthropology, and to individuals in other disciplines who are interested in using our elements. External workshops have been budgeted, and Fischer, Zeitlyn and the coordinator will visit all the UK HE Anthropology sites where they can muster an invitation. We will work through the existing Anthropology National Teaching and Learning Network programmes.

2.1) All materials and documentation will be available to the public on the Ethnographics Gallery, a World Wide Web site maintained by the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing at Kent. All this material will be released on CDROM as well. WWW access will be presented on an on-going basis from the onset of the project (it has begun already, since Kent has been converting its own elements to WWW format). The add-on cost of making the information available to the public over Kent Anthropology's existing and ongoing requirements is virtually nil, and can thus be maintained so long as Kent is prepared to use these resources themselves, which is for the foreseeable future.

2.2) We have budgeted for publication of two paper manuals and two CDROMs for disseminating the material, in addition to the WWW publication indicated in 2.1). Beyond the lifetime of the project the material will be distributed at cost, using the mechanisms currently used by CSAC Monographs (Kent Anthropology's publishing organ disseminating a combination of paper and electronic publications).

2.3) The budget provides for a series of three workshops to be held to introduce the methods and products of the project to the wider UK anthropology community. These will be widely publicized in order to draw as large a constituency as possible. Where possible the workshops will coordinate with other meetings, such as the annual ASA conference.

2.4) Conferences, papers etc.

This project will deliver a set of teaching and learning elements which will be used in existing courses. By making all the materials WWW-accessible, platform independence is assured and a means of publicizing and delivering the course materials beyond the lifetime of the project will be achieved. It also goes a long way towards the goal of making the material accessible to students without a background in the use of computers. A set of clear guidelines illustrated by the material which we shall prepare will demonstrate how the research material of other teachers may form the basis for their experience-grounded teaching. Flexible teaching modules for use as part or whole courses on several subject areas will be developed. For example, some the individual elements taken together comprise a teaching course on computer-assisted anthropology, which will be a development of the Social Anthropology and Computing course at UKC.

The staff provided by the project will enable courses to be developed at the major consortium partners. Project dissemination will be achieved by incorporating elements from the project into current teaching courses at the consortium sites. Hence our major dissemination strategy is to provide staff for consortium members. This will enable the use of the project to be demonstrated to colleagues on site.

The consortium is large enough to form a critical mass of UK social anthropology. We will produce a wide range of practical working examples (and support materials) of the use of experience-grounded teaching and learning elements which will be presented to other members of the UK teaching establishment at the series of workshops which will be held during the project. The workshops, in particular, will be open to non-consortium members and will be advertised so as to further the dissemination of the project ideas among the wider anthropological community.

Project evaluation

Formative evaluation of the project will be centred on the following questions

a) How easy is it to identify where experience-grounded teaching and learning elements could be incorporated by staff and students into local teaching environments?

b) Are such elements easily available and accessible to staff and students?

c) Are they easy for staff and students to use?

d) Are they flexible - do they support rather than direct teaching and learning?

e) How easy is it for a teacher to package existing material to make it into an experience-grounded teaching and learning element for themselves and others?

These questions will be evaluated in the following contexts.

1. Regular consortium meetings and workshops will be held in order to ensure that feedback from the development and use of the project materials can be incorporated into subsequent revised versions. Later in the project the coordinator and managers will undertake formal evaluation by running test sessions in different sites (not exclusively the collaborating sites) on the products of the project.

2. We will also solicit testers from other centres of anthropology teaching both in UK and abroad who can provide further testing in addition to the consortium members. The results of this will be fed back to the project staff at the meetings and workshops already mentioned. Dr. Mike Forester of the Department of Social Psychology, UKC will act as an evaluator and assessor for the project, building on his experience of a similar role in the Infobike, the TLTP Hypertext Campus and other projects.

3. Teaching and learning elements developed in this course will be incorporated in the teaching curricula of consortium members. The uses will include:

a) Use of single elements as e.g.

- unassessed 'extras' such as the showing of videos and additional readings

- Illustrative components in lectures (e.g. as a source of slides)

- used to focus discussion in classes or seminars

- optional part of an assessed piece of work

- Centre of a major project or as source of data for standard assessed assignment

b) Use of several elements used in a sustained manner as a section of a course (such as is the case in the UKC courses 'Foundations of Human Culture' and 'Economic and Social Development').

c) Sustained use of a set of teaching and learning elements throughout a course

In the first year the main use will be of type a), with type b) occurring in some sites, but type b) will become more frequent throughout the consortium in year 2. Type c) is unlikely to be undertaken within the period of the project except at UKC.

4. Final outcomes

- Methods/templates for producing experience-grounded teaching and learning elements. These will remove the more technical requirements (other than those of the discipline) for producing experience-grounded teaching and learning elements. This enabling the focus to be placed firmly on the anthropology, not the technology used to deliver it.

- Substantial minority of departments using some of the products of the project

- Achieving a more reflective, explicit and thus more transferable model of anthropological teaching

5. Raising the question of when these elements are and are NOT appropriate in curricula and which kinds are efficient to develop vs. which are costly in terms of labour and materials. Identifying the range of different elements from the simple (taking about a week to develop) to more complex requiring far more substantial investment in staff time and resources to produce, as summarised in the methods section above (design criteria). What are the crucial components of an experience-grounded element? This will result in a summary of optimum element and guidelines for the costs (labour and resources) for developing material to be used in teaching and learning.

We have identified a number of critical points and milestones and (identified in the activity schedule) which will provide the basis of formative ongoing evaluation.

Critical points.

1) Initial list of teaching and learning elements to be developed early in year 1. As soon as the grant has been awarded initial discussions will commence, using post and email (including a discussion-list). This will contribute to the specification of the computer officer, and ensure that material is available for testing in the first year of the project. Note on time tabling: we have extensive experience in managing research, including the development of teaching resources.

2) The work of specifying, developing and testing the packaging of teaching and learning elements must be completed well within the term of the computer officer's tenure i.e. by October 1997. Hence we must ensure that some teaching and learning elements for student evaluation are in place by the summer of 1997. This will give the computing officer time to respond and to document the packaging templates that will be developed. (Note a small amount of computer expertise is budgeted for in subsequent years to permit further refinements to be made).

3) Enough material must be available for use in a more sustained fashion in 1998/9 academic year. This will be achieved if the packaging process works not only at UKC but also at other consortium sites.

4) Other Milestones. These include: first teaching and learning element in place; first student focus group; first extended teaching and learning element in place; first workshop to introduce the teaching and learning elements beyond the consortium.

Summative Evaluation

Based on the formative evaluation we will have a list of aspects where we were fairly successful, and some where we were not. Probably the most important issues of summative evaluation are a) have the resources developed and implemented improved the teaching and learning environment, and b) how the experience can be improved, and c) can new resources be created efficiently enough. Teacher and student participants will contribute to the evaluation of the project. Project managers and the coordinator/research officer will travel to the consortium sites to run focus groups among the students who have used the products of the project.

There is insufficient time within this project to be able to assess the impact of the products of the project on the marks that students achieve, so we will have to focus on their opinions and those of their teachers.

Project management strategy

The project will be managed day-to-day by Dr. Fischer and Dr. Zeitlyn who will provide overall direction and be closely involved in the running of the project itself, each gaining part-time relief from their teaching and administrative duties for the project. The programmer and project coordinator/research officer will be based at UKC where they will work closely with the project directors. Regular meetings of the project will ensure that the all collaborating sites can solve management problems informally (face-to-face) if necessary. In addition to this the existing video-conferencing facilities at Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing will be available to the project to allow consortium members to conduct virtual meetings. A management committee will be set up to consist of representatives of the consortium partners, in addition to Professor Chris Hann (Dean of Social Studies, UKC), Dr. Mike Forester of the Department of Social Psychology, UKC, a representative from the UKC Research Support and Administration office and nominees from HEFCE and the DflorinEE Anthropology Discipline National Teaching and Learning Network.

We are aware of project management methodologies such as PRINCE and intend to use aspects of these but the scale of this project is such that full implementation would be inappropriate.

Continuation beyond the lifespan of the project

Beyond the lifetime of the project the course and supporting materials from the project will be published on a variety of media, and publicised using the World Wide Web as well as using more conventional methods such as the inclusion of publicity materials in the annals of the ASA (the UK professional body of academic social anthropologists). UKC already runs one of the foremost anthropology sites in the world (Ethnographics Gallery http://lucy.ukc.ac.uk) but since the products of the project will involve a large amount of digital imagery (still and moving) as well as sound files, delivery using WWW will be very slow for those UK HE sites without high quality ethernet or ISDN connections easily accessible to students and/or staff. In particular, some of the possible overseas users may have computers but no reliable Internet connection at all. To meet all these problems the products of the project will be made available on a CD which can be distributed for cost (c 20) once the project has concluded. The World Wide Web will be very useful in publicising and marketing the work of the project and ensuring that interested parties come to know of the results. Papers will be presented at conferences such as the UK ASA and US AAA and articles written for mainstream anthropology journals will alert other teachers of anthropology to the results of the project.

This project has been funded by HEFCE under the FDTL program. FDTL 82/96

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