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Issues and Challenges in teaching Research Methods to Undergraduates in Anthropology HEA Social Sciences Conference Liverpool 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Issues and Challenges in teaching Research Methods to Undergraduates in Anthropology HEA Social Sciences Conference Liverpool 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Issues and Challenges in teaching Research Methods to Undergraduates in Anthropology HEA Social Sciences Conference Liverpool 2013

2 A Discipline Defined by its Method Division into Social, Biological and also visual and material culture Social Anthropology synonymous with ethnography Lots of discussion about what ethnography is, but not clearly distinguished as methods Ethnography includes other methods – Participant observation, interviews, surveys, narrative and discourse analysis, photo elicitation

3 Specialist or Integrated Debate about whether methods should be taught in specialist methods courses or integrated into theory courses Specialist courses tend to be unpopular with students, difficult to convey relevance. Integrated courses dont always make a clear distinction between methods, methodology and theory Manchester – shift from Researching Social Life to studying Anthropology Should anthropology teach methods as part of a wider social science framework

4 Durham (2nd year) Methods and Explanations Provides a grounding in research methods in both social and biological anthropology, looking at the relationship between data and anthropological theory, and giving students experience of collecting and analysing data.

5 UCL (1 st year) - Researching the Social World An introduction to first, the critical reading and deconstruction of an ethnographic text, analysing the relationship between data- gathering methods and ethnographic writing; second, analytic techniques used in social and cultural anthropology, consisting of a series of laboratory-based and field work exercises. The course emphasises the close relationship between methods of data-gathering and theoretical analysis. In addition, students will acquire visual documentation skills to augment their ethnographic project.

6 UCL - Methods and Techniques in Biological Anthropology A laboratory-based course designed as a practical introduction to biological anthropology. The course introduces methods of data collection and data handling, descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing. Subject areas include evolutionary theory, genetics, taxonomy, behavioural ecology, primate evolution, nutrition, anthropometry, demography, and resource use.

7 Aberdeen (3 rd Year) - Doing Anthropological Research This course is intended to acquaint students with the practical, methodological and theoretical issues associated with anthropological research. We will look critically at different methodological approaches and the relationship between fieldwork experiences and ethnographic production. The course will run as a combination of lectures and methodological workshops. Each weekly module will address a different element of ethnographic practice and focus on the changing dynamics of ethnographic research. Topics will also include interviewing, taking fieldnotes and other skills and techniques of anthropology in the field.

8 Manchester 2nd Year – The Ethnographers Craft The aim of this course is to familiarise students with diverse conceptual and practical approaches to ethnography in the contemporary world, exploring key debates on ethnographic and anthropological research. Students will acquire and develop ethnographic skills and techniques through hands on experience undertaking a short local research project. This work in progress will be closely monitored and developed through collective reflections and discussions in class.

9 The Centrality of Fieldwork Methodology classes split between discussions about theory and concerns about practicalities of fieldwork Difficult to translate this into courses for undergraduates who will not be embarking on long term fieldwork Social Anthropologys method is tied up with long term fieldwork For PGR students methods training is also fieldwork training. Image used with permission from the Royal Anthropological Institute, original copyright owned by Peter Eckman

10 Undergraduate Fieldwork Projects This raises the question of whether anthropology students should undertake fieldwork for their undergraduate dissertations. Contention over practical experience - a paltry 3 weeks in a village (Levi-Strauss, 1954) Ingold (1989) – knowledge of anthropology can be taught to all but anthropological fieldwork is beyond the boundaries of undergraduate degrees Wright and Sharma (1989) Short fieldwork experience de-mystifies anthropological methods, encourages independent learning, develops skills (employability).

11 Challenges Links between theory and practice in the classroom are often tenuous. Difficult to convey the experience and Utility of Fieldwork (Sharma 1991) at undergraduate level Topics for fieldwork projects restricted to those accessible from university Ethical approval for participant observation. Practicalities eg supervision over the summer

12 Developing an Ethnographic Sensibility Pococck (1975) Anthropology must be lived at the same time as it is learned. Focus on the anthropological imagination Group research projects, field schools, placements, study abroad. Coleman and Simpson (2004) - integrating students biographical experience. Incorporation of Visual/material culture methods eg. Manchester 1 st Year course on digital film-making

13 References Coleman, S & Simpson, R 2004 Knowing, Doing and Being, Pedagogies and Paradigms in the Teaching of Social Anthropology in Dorle Drackle & Iain Edgar (eds) Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology Education Oxford, Berghahn Ingold, T 1989 Fieldwork in Undergraduate anthropology: an opposing view. British Association for Social Anthropology in Policy and Practice (BASAPP) 3:2-3 Pocock, David 1975 Understanding Social Anthropology London, Hodder & Stoughton Sharma, U 1991 Field Research in the undergraduate Curriculum British Association for Social Anthropology in Policy and Practice (BASAPP) 10:8-10 Wright, S. & Sharma, U. Practical Relevance of Undergraduate Courses British Association for Social Anthropology in Policy and Practice (BASAPP) 2:7-8 - ethnography

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