Cultural Anthropology/CAAssessments

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Quarter Long Assignments

Discussion (online class)


Starting in Week 2, students participate in weekly discussion based on readings in Spradley and McCurdy's Conformity and Conflict. Students have minimum post requirements.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Discussion Lead

Starting in Week 3, students work in a small team to develop and post questions, moderate, encourage, and evaluate discussion. I provide guidelines for evaluation and use the student evaluations as one part of calculating student discussion grades for the quarter.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Course Prep Work for Online Classes

For the class prep, I make everything except the plagiarism assignment worth 5 points. The Plagiarism assignment I make worth 20 points total (10 for each test). The course prep work is more about getting students ready for the online course than the actual points.

Introduction Post

There are many ways to have students introduce themselves. Check out this page posted by the University of Southern Alabama Using Online Icebreakers to Promote Student/Teacher Interaction. You might also want to check out this forum on The Chronicle's web site: For this class, I liked to have students develop a description of themselves using the letters in their name. I post an example using my own name, e.g., T = tenacious, O = overachiever, R = rebel, I = insouciant. I also ask student to post a picture of themselves in order to make the class more personal. I usually offer some extra credit if they post a picture. I also create an extra credit quiz based on the student responses. This gives students the option of getting to know their classmates better.

Team Request Form

I require team work in my online classes, so I have them fill out a short questionnaire so that I can create teams.

Sample questionnaire: Open Office file | PDF file

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.

Discussion Guideline

Students post a guideline for behavior on the discussion forums.

Culture Description

For this assignment, students in the online class are asked to write a short description of their culture. They are given no other instructions except for that vague statement. This is a prelude to the Final Essay assignment (see Unit 3 Assignments). I have students post this to a discussion forum.

Plagiarism Pre-/Post-test

Using a pre-test, tutorial and post-test created and hosted by the University Libraries, The University of Southern Mississippi, I have student prepare for doing college-level research.

Web site:

Test File Upload

Each student must upload a test file to the course management system to ensure they know how to use the system.

Unit 1 Assignments

There are two assignments that I use in Unit 1: AnthroSpeak and Reading Ethnography. Most quarters, I do these as separate assignments, but in the shortened summer quarter, I assign a combined version of the assignments.


For this assignment, students research the definitions of several key concepts in cultural anthropology on the web. Students are required to use at minimum two web sites so that they can synthesize the definition into their own words. A key component of this assignments is web site evaluation. This adds a nice information literacy component to the assignment. Students are also required to write a short reflection applying the concepts to their own personal experience.

I usually make this assignment due in Week 2.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Reading Ethnography

For this assignments, students read an ethnography and analyze it using a set of questions provided to them in the instructions. I use this assignment to help students learn how to critically analyze anthropological literature and also as an exercise in cultural relativity. Additionally, it allows students to learn more about a culture.

For this open access version, I've had problems locating full ethnographies online, but have been able to find "previews" on Google Books. I usually have students find an ethnography in the school library, but had to remove that part for this project, but keep it in mind as the preferred option! When I teach this class online, I usually assign students an ethnography that they must purchase...again, restrictions for this project make it necessary to find online ethnographies.

I usually make this assignment due in Week 4.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Combined AnthroSpeak and Reading Ethnography

For our 8-week summer quarter, I combine the AnthroSpeak and Reading Ethnography to make it a bit easier on both students and myself. Students still research the definitions of key concepts, except instead of applying them to their personal experience, this assignment requires them to find examples of the concepts in the ethnography they choose to read. When I teach this class online, I usually assign students an ethnography that they must purchase...again, restrictions for this project make it necessary to find online ethnographies.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Ungraded Assessment

Some of these exercises are short and I do during class to break up lecture. Others take a significant portion of class. I rarely do them all in one quarter, but switch them up from quarter to quarter.

Culture Map

Students create a collage of their idiosyncratic culture either in a single PowerPoint slide or poster. I ask them to think about the things in their personal culture that have the most impact on their perceptions and behaviors. Students present these in class. It helps students think more critically about their own culture and allows me to get to know them better. I generally have students upload PowerPoint slides to the college's course management system or have them email them to me ahead of time so we don't waste class time downloading or opening files from personal email accounts or thumb drives.

I usually assign this at the end of the second class and have students present their culture map during the third class.

Cultural Relativity Exercise

In small groups, students discuss four behaviors, attempting to explain why a society might practice them. The behaviors I usually have them discuss are human sacrifice, cannibalism, circumcision, and infanticide. This helps students become more culturally relative.

This exercise takes place early in the quarter, usually the second, third or fourth class...depending on how lecture is going.

Roles, Values and Norms

In small groups, students choose a role and brainstorm a list of values and norms associated with the role. Groups choose one student to write their work on the board and as a class we discuss whether or not values and norms have been correctly identified.

This exercise takes place early in the quarter, usually the second, third or fourth class...depending on how lecture is going.

Power of Language

In small groups, students work through exercises on language bias. This is modified from longer worksheets available at

Worksheet: Open Office file | PDF file

Visualizing Theory

In small groups, student must create a visual representation of a theory in cultural anthropology. Each team gets a handout about one theory and they get about 30 minutes to read and create their visual representation. I have students draw their theory on a giant post-it (easel size) with crayons (amazing how college students enjoy an opportunity to draw with crayons); alternatively, I have the group draw it on the board. Each team must then explain their theory using their drawing.

Handouts: Open Office file | PDF file

CCC Culture

In small groups, students talk a walk around campus to identify how the values of the college manifest in the cultural and natural environment. This is easily adapted to the values of other schools.

Handout: Open Office file | PDF file


This is a pretty straightforward viewing and assessment of a major motion picture. I alternate between Whale Rider and Smoke Signals, depending on the amount of time I want to spend in class and my mood.

Whale Rider film guide Open Office file | PDF file
Smoke Signals film guide Open Office file | PDF file

Note about small group work: There is quite a lot of small group work in the first unit. This is intentional. For the final project, students work in small teams so throughout the quarter, I have students work with their teams to build a working relationship and get to know one another.

Unit 2 Assignments

This unit has three assignments, Team Exam, Ethnography & Ethnology and the Religion Discussion (the latter for f2f and hybrid classes).

Team Exam

In small teams, students take an essay exam. I give each team one copy of the exam questions. Then they can either divvy up the questions or work together to write the answers. I let students choose, although if they do the former I make sure they know that they need to read each other's answers before handing it in and discuss any changes that might be needed. I allow open notes and open books. My rationale for this is that I would rather have them engage another way with the material, hoping that it will help them remember it instead of having them memorize the material and forget it soon after. Students are hesitant about this at first, but generally like it once the exam is over. I require each student to submit a Team Member Evaluation.

I usually give this exam in Week 5.

Team Member Evaluation: PDF File

Ethnography & Ethnology

This assignment requires students to go out into their community and make observations, giving them a small experience in cultural anthropology methods. Since this an introductory class, I simply have students make observations and not interview people as there is no time to properly prepare them to conduct ethical interviews.

Assignment Instructions f2f/hybrid: Open Ofice file | PDF file

Assignment Instructions online: Open Office file | PDF file

Religion Discussion

For this assignment, students research a belief system and then in small group discussion, present their information to classmates. For my class of 33 students, I allow no more than 3 people to research any one belief system and divide the class into three or four groups for the discussion. This gives students the chance to learn about some belief systems and practice their communication skills. It allows students who don't feel comfortable speaking up in large groups a change to express themselves. At the end of class, I give students 15 minutes to answer a series of questions and complete a self-evaluation that I use to calculate their grade for the assignment.

Assignment Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Questions and Self-Evaluation: Open Office file | PDF file

Ungraded Assessment

Kinship Diagram

This exercise has a couple of parts to it. After lecturing about kinship, I introduce students to kinship diagrams by going over symbols. I then draw my own kinship diagram on the board and have students interpret it. After this, students pair up and interview their partner so that they can draw a kinship diagram. Once students have completed that, they pick up a handout about a fictitional First Nations group. Working with their partner, they have to draw a kinship diagram. Once completed, we look for patterns in the diagram and propose hypotheses to explain the patterns. These exercises take an entire 2-hour class period.

Kinship Diagram Instructions: Open Office file | PDF file

Kinship Diagram Key: jpeg file

Maori Medicine Drawing

My students love this exercise as it makes them think differently about their own lives. We do this after the lecture on the anthropology of religion.

Link to instructions

Unit 3 Assignments

There is one assignment due in Unit 3: Final Essay. The quarter-long Sustaining Indigenous Cultures assignment is due the last week of the quarter. This course does not have a final exam.

Final Essay

The final essay completes an activity the students did on the first day of class in f2f and hybrid classes or on a discussion forum during the first week of an online class. Students are handed back their culture description (or referred back to it if it is an online class) and asked to rewrite it based on what they have learned over the quarter. This assignment takes the place of a final exam.

Assignment Instructions f2f/hybrid: Open Office file | PDF file

Assignment Instructions online: Open Office file | PDF file

Ungraded Assessment

Create a Culture

In this exercise, students work with their final project team to create a fictitional culture literally from the ground up. Students must describe the environment and then work on creating appropriate cultural and biological traits for the group living in the environment. Students draw on what they have learned over the quarter about the interaction between culture, environment and biology to complete the exercise. Each team then presents their created culture to the rest of the class. I usually do this in Week 9 or 10 of the quarter. The activity can take about an hour to an hour-and-a-half depending on the number of teams.

Handout: Open Office file | PDF file