Biological Anthropology/Assessment Activities
- 1 Quarter Long Assignments
- 2 Unit 1 Assignments
- 3 Unit 2 Assignments
- 4 Unit 3 Assignments
- 5 Non-Graded Assessments
Quarter Long Assignments
Create an Exam
This assignment requires students to write exams, both questions and answers. We have found that this assignment allows us to determine student how well students identify key terms and concepts. After writing questions and answers, we've found that students retain the material better than if they took an actual exam. We require students to create three exams in an 11-week quarter.
Public Awareness Campaign
This assignment requires students to work in small teams to create a public awareness campaign on a topic related to biological anthropologists; this generally turns out to be health related. With this assignment, we usually include library instruction and often offer students at least one class period to work on their projects. Teams are set up early in the quarter so students can begin work. Teams can be chosen randomly (we frequently use Jolly Ranchers or other types of candy) or non-randomly (see below for some things we have used to create teams non-randomly). It is easy to include a couple of milestones along the way to ensure students are working on the project, e.g., annotated bibliography, but we have students work in their teams throughout the quarter to build a working relationship between members.
On the day teams are assigned, we have students create a team contract and choose their preliminary topic. The library instructional day is planned in week 3 or 4 to allow students to do some initial research and change their topic if necessary. A project work day is usually assigned before beginning or right after the beginning of Unit 2. On this day, students are required to provide an outline or statement of what they accomplished on the work day and fill out a team member evaluation (example below). Final campaigns are presented to the campus at large in one of the public spaces.
Once students have turned in their forms, simply grab a piece of paper (graph paper works well) and start tallying the information. Things one of the creators of this course keeps in mind when creating the teams:
- males work better if there is at least one other male on the team
- ESL students generally feel more comfortable when there is another ESL student in the team; same with students of color
- Teams of 4-5 students are ideal
- Non-traditional students also feel more comfortable if there is at least one other non-traditional student on the team
We still try to keep the teams diverse if possible, but team work tends to stress students out, so we figure if we can configure the team to ease some of that stress, why not do so?
You might want to check out this site for some tips on team selection: Decisions in Forming Teams or Tools for Teaching - Collaborative Learning (note: we don't think that students should choose their own teams; it is too easy for students to get left out--last person picked for the team kind of thing--making for a poor learning environment)
Think about allowing teams to kick out deadbeat members. This should only be done when all other options are exhausted and the students have talked to the instructor, who will make the final determination. At least one of us informs students that getting kicked off a team results in a zero for the assignment as it is a team assignment, not an individual assignment. Creating several small team-building exercises into class early in the quarter will help students develop a team mentality.
Team Member Evaluations:
Project Work Day: Open Office file | PDF file
Final Team Member Evaluation:Open Office file | PDF file
Some online sources that might be useful for students:
- Global Health Council Grassroots Manuals: http://www.globalhealth.org/view_top.php3?id=541
- Smithsonian: http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_si/nmnh/origin.htm
- BYU Museum of People and Cultures: http://mpc.byu.edu/CultureCases/CultureCases.dhtml
- World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/en/
- Center for Gender and Refugee Studies: http://cgrs.uchastings.edu/
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home
- American Refugee Committee: http://www.arcrelief.org/
- Refugee Health Information Network, Georgetown University: http://rhin.georgetown.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx
- Johns Hopkins University Center for Water and Health: http://www.jhsph.edu/water_health/index.html
- Pacific Institute on World Water: http://www.worldwater.org/index.html
- UNICEF on Water and Sanitation: http://www.unicef.org/wash/
- NPR on World Health: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1031
- History of Race in Science: http://www.racesci.org/home.html
- Carter Center (health organization): http://www.cartercenter.org/health/index.html
- List of Transcultural and Multicultural Health Links: http://web.nmsu.edu/~ebosman/trannurs/rlinks.shtml
- Non-Governmental Research Guide: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/doemoff/govinfo/intl/gov_ngos.html
- Worldwide NGO Direcory: http://www.wango.org/resources.aspx?section=ngodir
Unit 1 Assignments
Historical Figure Bio
This assignment helps students learn about the historical development of evolutionary theory. Putting it in historical context allows students to see how Darwin put his theory together and then how others built on his work to develop the modern synthesis. It has an information literacy component in that students must use appropriate Internet sources for completing this assignment. We hand out this assignment on the first day of class and students must have it completed and ready to present on the second day of class. Very early on, students learn that they will have to be an active participant in the class. This assignment is easily adaptable for online classes simply by omitting the class presentation portion.
In this assignment, students investigate current topics in biological anthropology by critiquing articles from the popular press and scholarly peer-reviewed journals. It has an information literacy component in that students must use appropriate library and Internet sources for completing the assignment. This assignment helps students improve their research, critical thinking, and writing skills.
Unit 2 Assignments
This assignment helps students learn about the living primates. Researching and presenting information on the behavior and ecology of various primate species allows students to compare and contrast them and learn what primates have in common as well the variation that exists across the primate spectrum. It has an information literacy component in that students must use appropriate Internet sources for completing this assignment. This assignment works best if the presentations are completed during the first part of Unit 2. This assignment is easily adaptable for online classes simply by omitting the class presentation portion.
The debate assignment gives students the opportunity to explore a contested issue in biological anthropology. We keep the debate to three topics drawn from Taking Sides and six teams, which seems to be a manageable thing in a 2-hour class. The assignment helps students improve their communication and research skills. One of us has tried this assignment in an online class; it is difficult, but can be done asynchronously.
Unit 3 Assignments
Dancing Skeletons Essay & Discussion
In this assignment, students read an ethnography written by biocultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler, entitled Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa. The students then critically analyze the book in writing using a set of provided questions and have a group discussion regarding those points. This assignment has a cultural literacy component by exposing students to a realistic view of life and health in an area that is likely to be unfamiliar to them. It also provides a real-life illustration of how human biology and culture are intertwined. This assignment helps students improve their critical thinking, writing, and verbal communication skills.
DNA Replication and Protein Synthesis
Cell Division Jeopardy (this works best using Internet Explorer)
Trends in Human Evolution
Human Evolution from Teachers' Domain