A liberal arts education is designed to help students distinguish relative truth form error and the worthy from the ordinary. It also directs us to draw connection among diverse fields, to see the interrelatedness of knowledge, and in the process, open our minds to new ways of thinking. These objectives correspond precisely with the goals of anthropology: to explain how human behavior is affected by a wide array of factors and to critically understand and appreciate other ways of life as well as our own. Anthropology offers a challenge to cast off common assumptions and ways of thought , and thus to see the world with new eyes.
The four sub‐disciplines—cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology – together seek to describe and explain human culture in all its variety through time and space, as well as the interaction of ideological, behavioral and biological factors which produce variation. The result in combination is a departmental curriculum that teaches students to appreciate and learn from diversity, even as we impress upon them the commonality and unity produced by our evolutionary lineage.
General Pedagogical Goals: Students in anthropology classes should be encouraged to…
Substantive Goals: We will expect our majors to…
ANTH 465, History of Anthropological Thought, is a required course for all senior majors. It is taught in the fall and seeks to provide students with the intellectual skills to understand the discipline. The course assesses student knowledge through written examinations, heavy emphasis on class discussion, and creativity through an applied theory project.
Senior exercise pushes the students to think more holistically by having students read books on a single topic from 3 different sub‐disciplines of anthropology. For each book, we meet as a group (all of the faculty and all of the senior majors) for discussion. After the discussions, the students are asked to answer a synthetic exam question on the topic. Each students answer is read by 2 different faculty members and their performances are evaluated by the faculty at the end of the fall semester. They are evaluated n their ability to see connections between the sub‐disciplines and to articulate these connections in written form. Student participation and contribution to our group discussions are also considered. In both oral and written form, we expect them to understand and apply the theoretical approaches from ANTH 465. The class and the senior exercise are complementary and form the bulk of our assessment of the knowledge our senior majors have gained.
Ultimately, we seek to have students gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Specifically, they should be able to: articulate what they know; think logically; synthesize perspectives; critically evaluate different perspectives; communicate effectively in oral and written forms; work creatively; work collaboratively; and to be able to analyze concepts and their relationship to data.
Each year, at the close of senior exercise (end of the fall semester), we meet as a department to evaluate student performance on the senior exercise. At this meeting, we discuss how well students have met our goals, what areas we need to improve, and begin the process of making plans for next year’s senior exercise. This discussion also includes how we might need to modify our curriculum in order to address weaknesses in different areas of student performance, including potential issues with introductory and upper level courses. As this meeting occurs in the fall, we have time to
make adjustments to the curriculum for the coming year. We also discuss where students’ strengths and weaknesses lie in their understanding of anthropological theory and how we might modify the theory course (ANTH 465) to address any concerns. We supplement this discussion each year by providing students and opportunity to discuss our curriculum at the fall and spring majors’ meetings. At these meetings, we provide feedback to the students on our thoughts about the shape of the curriculum and ask for their input as well.