Teaching and Archaeology
This website is meant to complement the workshop, “Out of the Trenches, into the Classroom: A Forum on Archaeological Pedagogies,” held at the 129 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America on Sunday, January 6, 2008 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. in Chicago, Illinois. The workshop was organized by Lorraine E. Knop (University of Michigan) and Víctor M. Martínez (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and sponsored by the Student Affairs Interest Group (SAIG) of the Archaeological Institute of America. The participants included Eric DeSena (John Cabot University); Kevin Glowacki (Texas A & M University), Myles McCallum (Saint Mary’s University), Christopher Ratté (University of Michigan), Christina Salowey (Hollins University).
***Nota Bene: Due to unforeseeable circumstances Eric DeSena and Myles McCallum were unable to participate. Instead, Wayne Rupp (Florida State University) and Todd Brenningmeyer (Maryville University) participated in the panel.***
Why pedagogy is important
Although teaching is the lifeblood of the archaeological profession, where it is taught (Classics Department v. Art History Department; Research University v. Liberal-Arts College, etc.) varies as much as who we teach (undergraduates, majors and non-majors, or graduate students) and what we teach (art, architecture, field techniques, etc.). It is therefore not surprising that the transition for many archaeologists from learning their own field to teaching others is often fraught with anxiety, trepidation, and awkwardness.
While archaeologists encounter unique challenges in the transition from learning to teaching, the difficulty of the transition is endemic throughout academia. In his important book, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Princeton: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990), Ernest L. Boyer raised important challenges to the current structure of graduate education. In the following passage, Boyer underlines the need for graduate education to include the instruction of pedagogy:
“As far back as 1930, G. J. Laing, dean of the graduate school at the University of Chicago, raised the essential questions: ‘What are we doing in the way of equipping [graduate students] for their chosen work? Have the departments of the various graduate schools kept the teaching career sufficiently in mind in the organization of their program[s] of studies? Or have they arranged their courses with an eye to the production of research workers only, thinking of the teacher’s duties merely as a means of livelihood… while he carries on his research? And finally comes the question: What sort of college teachers do our Doctors of Philosophy make?’
“The standard response is that specialized study is the best preparation for teaching. This may be true for those who teach advanced graduate or post-doctoral students. At this level, faculty and student cultures closely interact. But in teaching undergraduates, faculty confront circumstances in which more general knowledge and more precise pedagogical procedures are required. Helping new professors prepare for this special work is an obligation graduate schools have, all too often, overlooked. Kenneth Eble, in his book Professors as Teachers, registered an observation that is widely shared: ‘[the professor’s] narrowness of vision, the disdain for education, the reluctance to function as a teacher are ills attributable in large part to graduate training. Upgrading the preparation of college teachers in graduate schools is therefore fundamentally important not only to improving teaching but to refashioning higher education.’” (70)
Boyer then continues to consider the value placed on the teaching role within departments. While most graduate students teach for the first time in the capacity of teaching assistant (TA), Boyer notes that:
“Most ‘TA’ arrangements are not viewed as significant academic undertakings. Graduate students are ‘assigned a section’ but given little or no help. The primary aim is to give senior faculty relief and help graduate students meet financial obligations. The needs of those being taught are often not seriously considered. The situation is exacerbated when the most accomplished graduate students are given research assistantships – and rewarded by not having to teach. One TA put it this way: ‘Teaching is considered secondary at best, with the implication being that those who aspire to teach or who enjoy it are not good scholars or intellects. The department gives double messages about teaching. It does not want to shortchange the undergrads, but it is suspicious of those of us who care deeply about teaching.’” (71)
While Boyer’s conclusions offer a bleak prognosis for pedagogy in academia, he offers a call to arms that suggests the possibility of a better, even a necessary, future: “The conclusion is clear. We need scholars who not only skillfully explore the frontiers of knowledge, but also integrate ideas, connect thought to action, and inspire students. The very complexity of modern life requires more, not less, information; more, not less, participation. If the nation’s colleges and universities cannot help students see beyond themselves and better understand the interdependent nature of our world, each new generation’s capacity to live responsibly will be dangerously diminished.” (77)
For archaeologists in the early twenty-first century, Boyer’s call for the social necessity of responsible pedagogy must resound strongly. With the Second Iraq War we have seen the decimation of a nation's rich archaeological patrimony, and the A.I.A. has responded directly and urgently to this problem by instating an educational program for the U.S. armed forces in Iraq. Likewise, we can observe the direct effect that our modern lifestyle has on ancient sites and monuments in the form of pollution, corrosion and the increasing effects of the growing human-built environment. Teaching the effects of global warming or politics need not be left to scholars in other disciplines. We, as archaeologists with commitments to the objects that we study, have an obligation to teach students how to “see beyond themselves and better understand the interdependent nature of our world,” or we stand to lose much more than the ranking of “excellent” on our teaching evaluations.
The goal of the workshop and this website are to highlight some of the pitfalls associated with teaching in different classroom and institutional environments and to offer some useful insights and strategies for preparing to teach different students. Among the pedagogical issues covered in the workshop and in the website are: How does communicating similar information change from a small classroom to the large lecture setting? What methods are appropriate for undergraduates? How can graduate students begin to shape their teaching philosophy? What are the issues in balancing traditional modes of instruction with innovative, project-based methods? What are the pros and cons of technology in the classroom?
The website further outlines and “deconstructs” these concepts by returning throughout to the organization of two case study courses. One is a general survey of art (cave paintings to cathedrals) intended for a large lecture course (200+ students) with several teaching assistants managing one or more discussion section at a large public university (henceforth ArtH 111). This course as discussed here was developed by Víctor M. Martínez and was offered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Fall 2005. The second case-study course is a subject specific, but introductory, course on Egyptian Art and Architecture for a small class (15-20 students) at a small liberal arts college (GRS 270). This course was also developed by Víctor M. Martínez, and the syllabus and structure discussed here were used to offer the course at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois in Fall 2006. In conjunction with some of the teaching strategies outlined in the books listed in the bibliography, the theoretical and practical approaches to pedagogy can be reviewed by turning to these two case study courses throughout the web-site.
Finally, it is hoped that this website will grow and blossom with input from other students, instructors, and professionals in order to maintain a constant dialogue.