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.
Volume 4, Issue 1, 2021
Special Issue: Teaching and Learning Anthropology in the Time of COVID-19
This special issue results from email conversations begun in the summer of 2020 concerning COVID-19’s effects on the teaching and learning of anthropology in higher education. The Society for Applied Anthropology’s Higher Education Thematic Interest Group listserv functioned as a networking tool, bringing together questions, authors, editors, and the journal. The resulting commentaries, project showcases, and research articles published here offer analyses of teaching and learning within the virtual walls of the academy during the pandemic. They reveal much about student and professor experiences with online tools and digital anthropology as well as the preexisting inequalities in higher education uncovered by the pandemic. Collectively, the essays in this issue offer insights and perspectives that can help guide anthropological teaching and learning in the future.
By the end of summer 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had upended higher education by requiring immediate adaptation by students, teachers, and institutions to new sets of limitations. What did this period of crisis mean for current and future teaching and learning? A rapid qualitative assessment presented here seeks to begin a sustained conversation around instructors’ experiences. The anthropology professors interviewed in this study found that preexisting conditions in higher education resulted in pedagogical impacts that aggravated both student and faculty inequalities within their institutions. Far from being a new “crisis,” the difficulties encountered in teaching and learning were familiar to professors, who worried ongoing problems in higher education were intrinsic.
In Spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced university instructors across the United States to confront the daunting task of quickly changing their courses from face-to-face to remote instruction. Nationally, universities relied on virtual platforms as they adjusted educational spaces in response to the pandemic. While there have been many anecdotes of how individual faculty responded to this transition, social scientists have yet to study systematically how instructors handled this transition. This article presents and analyzes data from semi-structured interviews with non-tenure-track social science faculty to understand how they handled the change to remote teaching after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It analyzes these interviews by drawing on intersecting perspectives from the anthropology of disaster, anthropology of education, and digital anthropology. We argue the transition to online teaching presented new challenges and opportunities to instructors as people coping with novel health concerns, family obligations, and space-time changes. Simultaneously, this change created pedagogical issues related to continuity of instruction, classroom presence, and emotional labor. We conclude with recommendations and directions for future research.
Zooming in on the COVID-19 Pandemic in Community College Classrooms: Experiments with a Pedagogy of Place in Anthropology Courses
Reflecting on our recent experience of online teaching with mainly historically marginalized students at the U.S.-Mexico border, we emphasize the importance of engaging a critical pedagogy of place by creating communities of trust. We describe how the COVID-19 pandemic was experienced among us and our students, focusing on how it impacted practical aspects and the context of our teaching. We discuss four teaching strategies we implemented during the pandemic that highlight the importance of communication and flexibility in allowing students to self-pace their learning. These strategies proved useful as we began to reach a level of trust among students and gained knowledge of their needs. We conclude by describing the pandemic as a period of opportunities in which anthropology students can apply concepts from assigned readings to confront and analyze a historical moment that neither we, nor our students, had previously experienced.
The Pandemic Pivot: Change and Adaptability during Quarantines, Social Distancing, and Anthropology in the Virtual Classroom
As COVID-19 swept across the United States in March 2020, it crippled the economy and exposed social vulnerabilities. With the closure of residential campuses and the pivot to remote learning, university administrators and faculty feared negative repercussions for both budgets and student success. In this article, we document the impact of the pandemic through a discussion of how two anthropology courses, at two very different universities, were adapted to remote learning. Our “accidental successes” suggest that a student-centered approach with flexibility and creativity in course design, as well as considering the socioeconomic realities of our students, could benefit all courses.
Teaching Ethnographic Research Methods in the Time of COVID-19: Virtual Field Trips, a Web Symposium, and Public Engagement with Asian American Communities in Houston, Texas
This article presents a detailed description of how I adapted an undergraduate ethnographic research methods course to a fully online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on my recent experience designing and teaching a new course titled Ethnographic Research in/of Houston Asia in Fall 2020 at Rice University, I illustrate the virtual learning environment I maintained in this course through ongoing collaboration with members of the Zoroastrian, Sikh, and Chinese Buddhist communities in Houston, Texas. Specifically, this article describes how I incorporated virtual field trips and a web symposium – two activities that I organized with the support of Rice University’s Course Development Grant – into my teaching of ethnography on Zoom. Such online activities, which are by necessity intensively interactive and community-oriented, enabled the course to cultivate a deep level of public engagement that arguably would not have been possible in the pre-COVID-19 period.
Pivoting to Virtual Reality, Fostering Holistic Perspectives: How to Create Anthropological 360° Video Exercises and Lectures
This paper addresses two challenges in higher education that increased with the shift to online learning due to COVID-19: translating experiential learning online and supporting student engagement. While virtual reality can be mobilized to address both of these challenges, finding or creating virtual reality that fits a course’s learning objective is a common barrier. This paper illustrates how instructors can integrate anthropological readings with freely available 360° videos or Google Earth to create their own virtual reality-like experiences and class activities. Such immersive experiences can support students in applying anthropology to real-world issues from any location with a smart device and internet connection and lead to a more holistic understanding of social issues. They also present an alternative to narrated PowerPoints or videos in online and in-person learning that can foster student engagement with the content.
Anthropology in the World: Studying Current Events of 2020 through the Lens of Structural Violence and Embodiment
Although the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for faculty and students alike, it was also a catalyst for new collaborations. Our faculty-student project capitalized on what the pandemic publicly exposed: the fact that human health and culture are inextricably intertwined. We write this commentary as an anthropology professor and student who developed a Directed Independent Study focused on salient social and biological phenomena of 2020 while also adapting pedagogical and methodological approaches given the circumstantial constraints. By applying an anthropological lens to current events of 2020, we operationalized anthropological theories – like structural violence and embodiment – that are typically distant abstractions to students.
In early March 2020, Teaching and Learning Anthropology (TLA) initiated a crowdsourced document entitled “Teaching COVID-19: An Anthropology Syllabus Project.” This essay reflects on TLA’s #COVIDSyllabus in the context of a broader shift toward the use of crowdsourced hashtag syllabi – or #syllabi – in social justice movements. I argue that the #COVIDSyllabus holds important lessons for anthropological teaching and learning. As a collaborative, open-access pedagogical project, the syllabus points to new possibilities for 1) expanding public anthropological engagement with contemporary social issues; 2) democratizing knowledge practices and centering the contributions of often marginalized scholars and activists; and 3) building shared communities of praxis within the discipline and among scholar-activists. The full syllabus can be downloaded from this essay’s supplemental materials; the live document is available at https://bit.ly/TeachCOVID19.
- 1 supplemental PDF
This commentary serves as a reflection on the impact of COVID-19 and other current events that have coincided with the pandemic from my perspective as an anthropologist and faculty administrator. With consideration of the multiple levels of decision-making involved in the pandemic response, the pedagogical implications of this current moment, and the significance of care within our academic spaces, I point to the use of anthropological approaches for sustaining the resilience of institutions of higher education despite our recent challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted teaching over the past year, pushing many instructors and students into remote learning. These changes have forced new discussions about serious issues with the digital divide and an array of intersectional inequities, and they have prompted conversations about the physical and mental health of everyone involved. While initial transitions to remote learning were treated as distinct from previous in-person or online learning, increasingly we are seeing a push to “return to normal.” This essay argues that pandemic recoveries take many forms, and risk and uncertainty must continue to shape our teaching. We must continue to engage with critical issues related to inequity, intersectionality, and broad discussions of health if we are to ensure a safe return.
This essay introduces a film that was produced for a course project during the Spring 2020 semester. The film, entitled “Captivity,” presents music students’ perspectives and experiences early in the pandemic. It points to the important role that the arts play in people’s lives as they navigate frightening and uncertain situations. The film can be viewed at https://blount.as.ua.edu/captivity/.
This essay describes a film that was produced for a community-engaged research project in a Spring 2020 Medical Anthropology course. The authors collaborated with the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS) to make a video on how to practice mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film can be viewed at https://commons.princeton.edu/ant240-s20/program-for-community-engaged-scholarship-proces-projects/educating-teens-to-prevent-suicide/.