Heather A. Wholey And Carole L. Nash 2014-05-21 03:22:43
“In my opinion, our major responsibility to the rest of the world is to do good, basic archaeological research.” —The Old Timer in The Golden Marshalltown: A Parable for the Archaeology of the 1980s (Flannery 1983) Three decades ago, Kent Flannery’s (1983) metaphorical Old Timer insisted that basic archaeological research is both foundational to and expected in the discipline. Today, that assertion can be made even more strongly, as archaeologists are increasingly held accountable by local communities, descendant groups, clients, civic and municipal agencies, and students. It is thus well worth considering the relevant skills needed to conduct sound archaeological research and interpretation and to examine the pedagogies involved in transmitting those skills. Teaching basic archaeological skills to undergraduate students is a central concern within the archaeological community of academic faculty, staff researchers, students, and cultural resources professionals (Davis et al. 1999). Here we focus on the present state of the curriculum for transmission of basic skills to undergraduate students who may continue to the professional world of cultural resources management or enter a graduate program to further their studies in the discipline. We also address the transmission of basic skills to undergraduate students who, more commonly, will not pursue a career in archaeology but may nonetheless garner important life skills. In many cases, these students will undergo transformative experiences that will leave them with an appreciation for the practice of archaeology and instill in them the value of stewardship for the archaeological record and cultural heritage. Background In 1998 a small group of archaeologists gathered in Wakulla Springs, Florida, to discuss the skills and ethical principles Needed to address changes in archaeological practice, particularly due to the growth of cultural resources management and public archaeology, as well as technological innovations. One of the topics was curricular reform in higher education. Seven “Principles for a New Archaeology Curriculum” (designed to align with the SAA Principles of Archaeological Ethics) emerged, with specific recommendations for how, at what stage, and to what level each curricular principle should be introduced into archaeology higher education. At the time, it was proposed that students planning a career in archaeology should demonstrate “the ability to make pertinent observations of the archaeological record, describe and record these observations, and draw appropriate inferences” (Davis et al. 1999). To this end, students should work toward mastery of fundamental archaeological skills including “survey and cartography (e.g., map making and reading), stratigraphy (e.g., draw and accurately interpret a soil profile), archaeological methods (e.g., complete field and laboratory forms), database management (e.g., create and use data tables), and technical writing (e.g., write artifact, feature, and site descriptions)” (Davis et al. 1998). The committee proposed that, at the undergraduate level, specific topics, such as observation/inferential skills, basic map skills (scales, contours), ability to organize and assess data, knowledge of the law, and description (one step above field description) would be appropriate to incorporate into standard undergraduate courses (Davis et al. 1999). Table 1, originally published in Davis et al. (1999) and Bender (2000), illustrates the proposed sequencing and student target audiences in teaching archaeological skills that emerged from the Wakulla Springs conference. The SAA publication Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century (Bender and Smith 2000) assembled the discussion topics from the 1998 conference, with a few chapters focusing on or drawing attention to the undergraduate archaeology curriculum. A basic premise of the volume was that curricular reform was necessary because archaeological pedagogy was no longer consistent with how archaeology was being practiced (Bender 2000), largely due to the rise of cultural resources management and significant public archaeology initiatives. Curricular reform in archaeology must, at one end of the continuum, prepare students for graduate studies or a professional career, and, at the other end, account for students who may take only a single course in archaeology (Bender 2000). Fagan (2000) charges that the primary role of the introductory undergraduate course is to create an informed citizenry and thus that it is important for pedagogy to be student-oriented and structured around topically specific learning materials and case studies. He further asserts that upper division undergraduate courses yield a relatively small number of future archaeologists, so again the focus should be on creating an informed citizenry, with course content structured around real-world case studies infused with ethical and decision- making issues. In the publication, Fagan forecast that the most effective elements of curricular reform would come in the form of course delivery, utilizing topically specific instructional materials, computer- and web-based inquiry, and institutional collaborations between instructors. Current Implementation of the Principle In 2012–2013, the SAA Committee on Curriculum undertook a study to assess the extent to which the Principles of Curricular reform are implemented. Ninety-eight syllabi gathered through professional contacts from four-year public And private colleges and universities were sorted into basic categories common to an undergraduate archaeology curriculum. Each committee member rated each syllabus on a scale from 1–3, using the criteria outlined below. Table 2 shows the mean rating for syllabi for each course type for “Teaching Fundamental Archaeological Skills.” The criteria for Fundamental Archaeological Skills outlined at the 1998 conference and in the 2000 publication were key to the ratings assignment. Table 2 suggests three interesting trends related to teaching basic archaeological skills in an undergraduate context: (1) the least emphasis on basic skills appears in area survey courses and stand-alone theory courses; (2) nearly equal emphasis is placed on teaching basic skills in introductory courses as in topical courses; and (3) the greatest emphasis on basic skills appears in stand-alone methods courses and in field schools. Content analysis of the syllabi focused on the stated learning objectives, assigned readings, and class assignments. For Introductory Archaeology courses (taught separately from global prehistory), the learning objectives of applied problem solving, application of archaeological evidence, and active learning are commonly included. Likewise, assignments and activities geared toward introducing and/or practicing archaeological concepts such as sampling, survey, spatial analysis, stratigraphy, dating, and provenience are frequently incorporated into the course structure through reading assignments, in-class practicums, and/or case studies. Clearly, basic skills are being introduced much sooner and at a more “advanced introductory” manner than was anticipated in the 2000 compilation. Students are, in many cases, learning to “think like an archaeologist” at the outset. Topical courses are generally taught to advanced undergraduates, and included in this examination are courses such as Archaeology and Identity; Archaeology of Food; Men, Women, and Children in Archaeological Perspective; Ecology, Culture and Environmental Change; Ethnoarchaeology; and, Experimental Archaeology (this latter could also be considered a Methods course). These courses also tend to introduce archaeological skills in an “advanced introductory” manner by situating archaeological research methods within anthropological topics such as gender, ecology, and food. Courses in experimental archaeology are explicitly grounded in project-based, hands-on learning and the acquisition of basic skills such as observation and inference, data collection, organization and description, and record-keeping. The introduction of basic skills in area survey (including global prehistory or area-specific) courses is understandably not a priority, given the amount of material that must be covered. Nonetheless, there is evidence that many instructors incorporate archaeological methods into these courses in a cursory fashion. For example, courses in North American prehistory may also include flintknapping demonstrations or activities, atlatl contests, or acorn collection and processing. Likewise, courses in Mesoamerican or South American archaeology may include brief units on pottery analysis, chemical sourcing, or spatial analysis, and, in one case, a survey of Old World prehistory included a bronze tool experiment. In several instances, experimental archaeology appears to have been incorporated into the course to enhance student learning in the area, with the introduction of methods and skills being derivative. Not surprisingly, methods courses and field schools place the greatest emphasis on teaching basic archaeological skills. Methods courses are taught as a survey of methods and as an in-depth exploration of particular methodologies such as ceramics analysis, lithics analysis, or the analysis of floral and/or faunal remains. The latter tend to be project-based and appear to involve hands-on learning by having students perform typological studies, stylistic or technological analysis, refitting exercises, and the like. Many lab-based courses also incorporate use of microscopes and statistical software packages and involve students in curation and database development. Again, experimental archaeology often appears to be integrated, primarily to enhance instruction of basic skills and to provide a social context (e.g., chaîne opératoire) for the more technical aspects of the coursework. Field schools overtly focus on teaching fundamental archaeological skills through instruction and supervised practice. In the twenty-first century, most field schools are project-oriented and organized around a specific research objective. They tend to be taught as educational apprenticeships in which students both observe and participate in the research experience (Miller 2012). A survey of the field school syllabi gathered for this study, along with a cursory review of recent field school announcements, indicates that fundamental skills common to most field school situations include survey and/or excavation, working with soils, record keeping, and map work. How much emphasis each of these skills receives in the field school setting correlates to the nature of the project undertaken. Similarly, the project-specific nature of the field school determines whether and to what extent students will be introduced to more advanced or multidisciplinary skills. It increasingly appears to be the case that students can anticipate gaining experience with what were once considered specialized applications, such as geophysical prospection, GIS, GPS, and geoarchaeology. In some cases, innovations and greater accessibility to technology and multidisciplinary approaches are de riguer in field schools. Case Studies from the Middle Atlantic Region The Middle Atlantic has a strong tradition of student training and mentoring, with more than 50 undergraduate archaeology programs in the region. A recently held workshop, “Boot Camp for Teaching Archaeology: Lessons from the Middle Atlantic,” organized by Nash and Wholey (2014) for the annual meeting of the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference (MAAC), drew together archaeology faculty from 13 public and private four-year institutions to showcase active learning and other pedagogical modalities for the teaching of basic skills to undergraduates. Participants were asked to give synopses of their programs and their approaches to teaching, along with examples of their work. An important goal of the gathering was the comparison of teaching methods both across and within curricula to better understand how context can shape significant learning experiences (Fink 2013). The archaeologists who were part of the workshop contributed a wide range of teaching contexts and examples, all focused on undergraduates. These include teaching (1) with experimental archaeology; (2) in an interdisciplinary setting; (3) in a compliance setting; (4) through long-term, collaborative projects; (5) with collections; (6) through intensive writing; (7) with mock sites; (8) with technologies; (9) through virtual curation; (10) through stewardship; and (11) transmitting life skills through an archaeology education. A repeated Theme of the presentations was the importance of bringing undergraduates into research projects to solidify basic field and laboratory skills. The practice and enhancement of these skills in a variety of active learning contexts has resulted in undergraduates contributing to professional research throughout the Middle Atlantic. A number of pathways for future collaboration emerged during the workshop. For example, it is common for archaeologists who teach undergraduates in the Middle Atlantic to do so in a restricted setting— for example, in archaeology programs embedded in combined departments, with small numbers of faculty and increasing numbers of students. Participants decided to initiate discussions on the creation of a “Middle Atlantic Archaeology Teaching and Learning Consortium,” through which faculty with a particular expertise could offer short courses for students from a variety of universities and work with them on a specific skill set. This will be the focus of a workshop at the 2015 MAAC. Teaching Archaeology through Active Learning Archaeology has much to offer undergraduate education: an interdisciplinary approach; a focus on temporal and spatial cognition; an emphasis on a broad skillset oriented to the field sciences; and an anthropological framework. Archaeologists who teach undergraduates commonly offer anecdotal evidence of the transformative power of the experiential pedagogies that are hallmarks of archaeological training. Wellassessed and shown to encourage a higher level of understanding and integration for students and teachers alike, experiential learning results in the mastery of skills so sought after in undergraduate education. From a pedagogical standpoint, the instruction of archaeological skills is an archetype for active learning (Bonwell and Eison 1991; Felder and Brent 2009) in which students are at the center of the learning process and partners in discovery and problem-solving. Originally defined in opposition to traditional teaching, in which the lecturer is the “Knower of All,” active learning should sound familiar to archaeologists, who will welcome the large body of research on a teaching approach that is part and parcel of our discipline (Burke and Smith 2007). Active learning can take many forms, including hands-on learning, problem-based learning, case studies, and simulations, to name a few. In addition to the shift away from passive learning, the characteristic that truly distinguishes active learning from traditional pedagogies is the focus on student engagement, resulting in independent, creative inquiry (Bain 2004). Interestingly, this strength has been most clearly articulated for pre-collegiate archaeology And programming for the public (Smardz and Smith 2000). Archaeology is not as visible in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) for higher education, despite the fact that archaeologists have much to say from years of active learning practice. Archaeological skills like those seen in the syllabi collected for the present study embody a practice in which students “learn through an education of attention” (Ingold 2011:190). To borrow Høgseth’s identification of the transfer of knowledge through craft, archaeologists combine “knowing what” and “knowing how” (Hogseth 2012:61) to create rich learning environments. Taxonomies of learning propose dimensions of knowledge that extend from concrete (factual) to abstract (metacognitive), the latter associated with higher order thinking skills (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001). Active learning in archaeology can move students along this continuum, requiring them to build on foundational knowledge to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and ultimately create (hypothesize and design) as undergraduates. In addition to apprenticing students (Wendrich 2012) early in their archaeological careers, active learning in the undergraduate curriculum has the potential to promote higher-order learning for all students. This “thinking about thinking” or metacognition (Bain 2012), emerging from a variety of learning experiences and environments, positions archaeology students to develop the “far transfer of knowledge” (Ambrose et al. 2010) from one course to another, and to later life (Lang 2013). Rather than claim that archaeology teaches transferrable skills, it is more apt to say that archaeology, based in active learning, promotes a disposition of critical and synthetic thinking, requiring students to work across disciplines in different learning domains. References Cited Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, Marie K. Norman, and Richard E. Mayer 2010 How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Anderson, Lorin W., and David R. Krathwohl (editors) 2001 A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Longman, New York. 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