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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Teaching and Learning Anthropology publishes analytical, reflective, and review articles on the topic of teaching and learning anthropology. The journal also publishes original undergraduate and graduate anthropological research and writing. We hope to engage a broad audience of students and faculty through open-access publishing.

We are currently seeking submissions from anthropologists in all subfields. 

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Integrating Anthropology and Biology: Comparing success rates and learning outcomes for university-level Human Evolution courses

A charge to biological anthropology curriculum development is generating learning outcomes for substantially different backgrounds of anthropology and biology majors. A primary concern is how prepared anthropology majors are for biology content; anthropology curriculum does not always require biology prerequisites. As bioanthropological research relies increasingly on genetics/phylogenomics, strong emphasis needs to be put on integrating biological content.

The core-level “Human Evolution” course at (our university) is taught under an anthropology rubric. The course is divided into four primary units: two covering topics that are also explored in lower-level biology courses (e.g., DNA inheritance), and two focusing on paleoanthropological content (e.g., hominin taxonomy). Here, we compare results of course assessments between anthropology and biology majors across four semesters to determine whether the two majors performed differently on units with “biology” content vs. “anthropology” content. A series of statistical tests reveal that overall, anthropology and biology majors are earning comparable final grades in the course. Additionally, when assessment results for units with differing content are contrasted, anthropology and biology majors scored comparably on “anthropology” content units. However, in some semesters, biology majors scored statistically significantly better in the “biology” units compared to how they scored “anthropology” units, and in one semester, anthropology majors statistically significantly outscored biology majors in “biology” content. These results might suggest that biology rather than anthropology majors are deficient in an integrated bioanthropological perspective. We recommend that anthropology and biology departments consider introducing integrated curriculum that is interdisciplinary rather than multidisciplinary by design.

Perceptions of Risk, Lives in Sacrifice: Service, Learning, and Liberation Pedagogy in Appalachia

In the Appalachian mountains, residents experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, exorbitant rates of incarceration, above-average mortality rates across the lifespan, and epidemically low educational attainment rates.  The complexities of this region prompt consideration of the possibilities for an anthropology-inspired, liberation-focused pedagogy to redress structural inequalities in education and in Appalachia.  Experiential pedagogical approaches to learning mobilize students and communities towards common goals, though barriers exist to implementing these methods, including resource constraints and concern about effectiveness.  Amidst internal and external pressures upon teaching and learning anthropology at the postsecondary level, this paper explores a case study in which students enrolled in a medical anthropology service-learning course partnered with the community to understand two broad areas: perceptions of risk and control related to environmental hazards and motivation for participating in civic action.  Simultaneously, student field notes and field work reflections provide data illustrating levels of learning of anthropology content as well as identity transformation.  Using the case study, this paper first addresses the possibility for meaningfully engaging in community-based research while meeting course-based student learning outcomes.  Second, this paper examines a process to operationalize anthropology methods to develop a process for measuring the impact of service-learning in anthropology courses, specifically related to anthropology content.  Lastly, this paper considers to what extent can we measure a transformation of identity that results from immersive, anthropology experiences.  The results of this case study show that service-learning is a mechanism for both community-based research collaboration and measurable, positive impacts upon student learning via service-learning.


Helping Students Synthesize Academic Literature: Development of an Excel® Research Grid

One of the key challenges in undergraduate education is learning to read, understand, and synthesize academic literature. To help students develop these skills a research grid assignment using Microsoft Excel was developed. This assignment breaks down key steps to data synthesis including identifying and summarizing key parts of academic literature, and comparing these across academic articles. The ability to sort and highlight data in Excel allows students to easily identify patterns in the literature of their specific research topic. Results from two semesters in a core physical anthropology course suggest that the process of creating and using the research grid improved students’ overall paper quality and improved student satisfaction with the process.

Student Showcase

Fake News, Fake Science?: Reflections of Teaching Introduction to Biological Anthropology in the Era of Trump

Combating fake news and fradualent science can be incredibly taxing. In this paper, I reflect on teaching introduction to biological anthropology at a large university and incorporating old academic literature as a teaching document. By utilizing old biological anthropology literautre and encouraing students to post related articles allowed for class discussion to critically analyze the material. By fostering a dialogue between the student and the professor in this setting, it brought upon a more nuanced and meaningful way to tackle fake news in the era of fake news.