Laboratory Manual and Workbook for Biological Anthropology
FOR INSTRUCTOR S
Active, Engaging, Flexible
The introductory laboratory in biological anthropology can be an inspiring place. It is exciting to see students interact with materials and concepts that may be entirely novel and unfamiliar to them. Of course, it is a challenging place too, a place with many students who enrolled without foreseeing the scientific content and detail of the course. This was the case when we taught introductory biological anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and decided to redesign the laboratory portion of the course in 2005. In doing so we had three overarching goals: (1) we wanted to emphasize active student engagement as a way to strengthen learning and long-term retention of course content, (2) we wanted to help students from diverse backgrounds and with varying degrees of experience in anthropology learn the key information about human biology and evolution, and (3) we wanted the lab manual to be simple for instructors to implement in their classes, whether it is used in pieces or as a whole.
We decided to attack this task, both with creativity and with a research and empirical approach emphasizing constant reassessment and improvement. We began simply by creating weekly lab exercises that corresponded with the topics covered in the course and were based on principles of learning from current pedagogy and cognition literature. Then, we spent the next several years trying these lab assignments in classrooms, tweaking them, and testing them again. We also collected empirical data about student engagement, initial learning, and long-term retention of knowledge from the lab component of the course. The data formed the basis for one of the author’s (Soluri) doctoral dissertation, which explicitly examined effective pedagogical methods in biological anthropology instruction. With proof of concept at the initial implementation at UC Berkeley, the exercises, questions, and text were then expanded, tested, and refined in additional classroom environments, including community college courses in the San Francisco Bay area. We wanted to make sure our approach would work with as broad an audience as possible. As a result, we feel this manual has developed into something unique among biological anthropology laboratory manuals.
1. The manual addresses a wide range of topics relevant to introductory biological anthropology courses, including genetics and evolutionary theory, skeletal biology and forensic anthropology, primatology, and paleoanthropology.
We provide a balanced approach to the topics that gives students a well-rounded foundation in the discipline. We also present concepts, such as modern human variation, that are central to biological anthropology but are often not emphasized in laboratory texts. In doing this, we help students build the most comprehensive biological anthropology skill set possible. Each of the lab exercises has been designed with real students in mind, and their effectiveness has been tested and finetuned over many semesters in real classrooms at various institutions.
2. The authors’ concern with employing effective pedagogy has resulted in a distinctive text that explicitly emphasizes a student-centered learning experience. The manual applies active learning pedagogy, which emphasizes the importance of students’ hands-on involvement in learning. It is ideal for laboratory contexts where the goal is to foster the development of key skills, as well as content knowledge.
3. The text is exceptional in its further emphasis on cooperative pedagogy, which highlights the importance of student teamwork to complete learning tasks. This approach helps students develop the critical thinking and communication skills that aid them in the biological anthropology classroom and beyond. We have designed the manual’s exercises and discussions with cooperative pedagogy in mind, and we encourage instructors to have students work in groups when completing the classroom tasks.
4. We have given additional attention to designing a text that is appropriate for a variety of learning environments and types of learners. Therefore, the exercise format is varied throughout the text, offering a range of activities that target particular learning styles. This variation helps each student to connect with the material, no matter what their learning background. It also allows instructors to choose particular activities suitable for the unique student makeup of each class.
5. Although the units and labs are arranged in the order in which the topics are often covered in classrooms, we have designed them to be modular. Units and labs can be taught in any order that suits the instructor’s needs.
6. In addition to its topical breadth, the manual is unusual because of the varied professional experience of its authors. Dr. Soluri’s research has focused on the pedagogical aspects of teaching biological anthropology, and she has experience teaching biological anthropology lecture and laboratory courses at large 4-year institutions and community colleges in the United States. Dr. Agarwal’s research has focused on bioarchaeology and skeletal analysis, and she has experience teaching biological anthropology lecture and laboratory courses at large and small 4-year institutions in the United States and Canada. Together, their collective research and teaching experience results in a well-rounded text that is appropriate for a wide range of college and university classrooms.
|October 5, 2017
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