Observation is the heart and soul of cultural anthropolgy. For ASB 214, an Intro to Comparative Religion, I assigned the class to view a video explaining the basics of ethnrographic research. For the next class, I paired them up and assigned each pair to observe a specific "culture area" on campus, i.e. the studuent union, the bookstore, etc. They had to develop a research question (Which do students use more often for purchases? Cash or debit?), observe their area for 20 mins and take observation notes, then analyze their findings. Were they able to answer their research question? If not, how would they improve their research in the future? I am hoping that by doing this activity first, I will see an improvement in both quality and sophistication of a future assignment, where students observe a ritual, take observation notes, and complete an analysis. I have assigned the ritual observation assignment in the past, and am hoping the students will get more out of it this semster, having first completed this activity.
Jennfier- I love this idea for "practicing" for success before completing a future assignment. What a wonderful way for you to assess student understanding and clarify before the "big" assignment. While I was reading your CATS I realized that I CAN have students conduct small research studies- this is something that has always scared me- but you made the plan clear and do-able.:-) I look forward to hearing the results.
Jennifer, this is a great example of how students can engage in experiential learning to learn the key concepts in the course. I would like to see previous students' results on the assessment (exam, project, etc.) and then see how those results changed this semester after this innovative pedagogical technique.
Jamie, This is an excellent activity for your students to apply the information from the classroom. I am looking forward to hearing about your results and how it has improved teaching. How will you assess if this activity is an improvement? We look forward to more details and the results! Olga
Thanks for the comment...it's Jennifer, not Jamie. Jennifer that came to your Domestic Violence Awarerness event.
Jennifer- As Erik said, this is akin to experiential learning. Having students get out in "the field" to improve their observation/research skills is an excellent idea. One question though; how will you measure "quality and sophistication" in future assignments to compare prior class results with this one?
That is a great question. I just introduced the research question portion this semester, so that will increase both quality and sophistocation from past semesters. I will be comparing to see if they have incorporated more anthropology-specific terms in their final projects than in previous semesters. Finally, I will compare the amount of actual analysis and interpretation of the observed events, vs. just straight reporting of what they saw.
Thank you so much...you made me sit down put into words what I had in my head, which I sometimes have difficulty doing!
Will you be collecting baseline data to compare to their end of the semester assignments? Or, do you have a second class that you could compare? This sounds like giving them opportunities for practice really does help them. Nice job!