Author: Katie Nelson

Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part IV

Stephen Lyon Durham University March 7, 2017 My University is considered one of the research intensive universities of Britain. We are one of the largest in terms of faculty numbers as well as student intake. We teach methods at every year of our undergraduate programmes and all single honours students are required to do a double dissertation module in their final year in which they must produce or analyse primary data as part of a supervised independent project. We struggle with weaning them off the excessive teaching that has come to characterise the sorts of schools from which our students come (more than half come from the independent, fee paying secondary school sector). Getting students to produce their own research questions is a challenge for some students and I’ve often wondered why they find it so difficult to think of what they’d like to know about some situation. This has led me to reflect on how I come up with questions that I find interesting– which I am convinced is a necessary early part of preparing a coherent research project. I’ve done this in different ways over the years. Some field research has been very ‘scripted’ and I’ve had pre-determined goals for number and category of informants I would need and specific tasks that I would ask them to carry out. Frequently, particularly during my doctoral research, such questions...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part III

Stephen Chrisomalis Wayne State University March 7, 2017 I teach linguistic anthropology at a large public research university as a program requirement for both undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology and linguistics; for most of them, this is their only exposure to the subfield, its methods, and theories. This presents a challenge – to get students out of their typical ways of thinking about evidence and drawing their attention to the relation between discourse and cognition – but also an opportunity. I have never found it to be particularly challenging to interest anthropology students in formal methods and approaches as a complement to other ethnographic approaches. Archaeology students may already have some background in reading and using quantitative data, and the same is true of sociolinguists. Students interested in applied and practicing careers may be able to see how these approaches would be well-received in institutional settings.   Because they are unfettered by any particular pre-existing models of what constitutes ‘valid’ evidence in linguistic anthropology, this frees me up pedagogically to introduce students to a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, cognitive anthropology, ethnosemantics, corpus linguistics, and other subfields. But a real challenge is getting students to be aware of what sorts of questions they might ask, and how they might go about generating methods that would answer those questions without limiting the possibility of novel...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part II

Wesley Allen-Arave University of New Mexico March 7, 2017 Research in anthropology requires a balance of flexibility and focus. A challenge in anthropology graduate training is imparting students with flexibility to adapt their research plans as complications and insights arise without tempering the students’ focus on recording compelling data for their research question(s). Unlike scientists in disciplines characterized by tightly controlled lab experiments, anthropologists generally observe people in their natural environments and lack control over the research setting. This creates unforeseen challenges for even the most carefully considered research plans, but also sets up exciting opportunities for new insights. Although the structure of publications and grant proposals obscure the often accidental nature of discoveries by embedding unforeseen results in theory after a researcher arrives at a logical explanation for them, serendipity surely leads researchers across academic disciplines to discoveries. Indeed, many discoveries are unlikely to be made through reason alone and may even require some serendipity. By living alongside the people under study, fieldworkers inevitably have observations, conversations, and shared experiences that relate to broad aspects of the everyday lives of the people in the study community. This exposure to aspects of people’s lives beyond just the narrow aspects that a researcher reasoned to be relevant to a research question at the outset of a study can lead to new insights and/or spur exciting new research avenues. I have...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part I

Douglas William Hume Northern Kentucky University March 7, 2017   In the fall 2016 semester I was scheduled to teach an upper-division undergraduate course titled “Ethnographic Methods and Research” in which I use McCurdy, Spradley, and Shandy’s The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society (2004) to introduce students to qualitative ethnosemantic research methods. It so happened that one of the sociologists in my department left the university last spring who was scheduled to teach a course titled “Qualitative Research Methods”, which had similar student learning objectives as my course. After negotiating with the sociology program coordinator, I was allowed to cross-list the courses, resulting in a mix of 20 sociology students and 10 anthropology students. The plan of the course was to spend the first half of the semester in class discussing research design and practicing data collection methods. The second half of the course involved students conducting their own research project using the methods introduced in the class and meeting with me each week to review their progress and guide them through the methods outlined in our textbook. During the first few one-on-one meetings with students focusing on their progress with grand tour/story/mini-tour/native language check questions and writing field notes, a stark difference between the anthropology and sociology students appeared. The sociology students would ask grand tour and story questions, such as, “What is a typical day like...

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Call for Abstracts!

Call for Abstracts: “Why Anthropology Matters: Making Anthropology Relevant and Engaging a Larger Public Audience through Pedagogy” Proposed Executive/Invited Session American Anthropological Association 2017 Meetings Washington, DC Nov 29-Dec 3rd If you are interested in participating, please send a tentative title and 250 word abstract to Audrey Ricke, [email protected], by Feb 9. PROPOSED SESSION : “Why Anthropology Matters: Making Anthropology Relevant and Engaging a Larger Public Audience through Pedagogy” One of the main venues through which anthropologists regularly reach a larger general audience over a sustained period of time is through teaching. In a given academic year, individual faculty may work with between 120 to 800 students. Many of these students will not become majors but all will care for, design for, assist, or work with people from many different backgrounds. Yet, in the minds of some students and the larger public, anthropology often indexes vague ideas about Indiana Jones, “other cultures”, and even just-so stories that really do not have an equal place in scientific inquiry. As Cathy Davidson writes in her 2017 article, The Future of Higher Education is Now, “we must radically reform higher education to meet the most pressing needs of our age.” What role does and should anthropology as a discipline have in these changes? What does this mean for the way that anthropologists’ approach teaching? In thinking about how anthropology matters, how do...

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