Hi! My name is Erin, and I’m an archaeologist. My research areas are diverse, as is often the case, but if I have to narrow it down to a few things, I tend to say that I study dead people (especially Vikings), stuff (I love material culture), and learning (especially through informal participant observation—I love being in the classroom!). I did my graduate studies in archaeology at the University of Glasgow, and by July 2010 I found myself at the University of Victoria, in a classroom full of students who seemed to think that I would know what I was doing.
As has been seen in many universities, UVic has been growing its teaching base to meet increasing demands for student spaces. My position and others like it reflect UVic’s response to this need; I am what is called an Assistant Teaching Professor. Teaching Professors are part of what is described as teaching stream faculty at UVic. We’ve recently added the rank of Associate Teaching Professor, so now it is possible for faculty to move through a three-tiered rank system parallel to the more traditional research stream faculty. The main differences revolve around expectations for research and publication, teaching load, etc. There’s some variability across the faculties, but the usual pattern for teaching stream faculty is six to eight courses (and if research is conducted, it is frequently connected to the scholarship of learning and teaching) and service commitments. For instance, I teach eight courses a year in anthropology, across three academic semesters. Five of my eight courses are ANTH 100: Introduction to Anthropology, a four-field course with a typical enrolment of approximately 200 students. I’m currently working on a research project examining methodologies for introducing first-year anthropology students to ethics, and I serve on a number of campus committees. I also maintain the website for the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada (AASSC). It keeps me busy.
UVic is a destination university. According to registration information, UVic draws more out-of-province students than any other campus in Western Canada. There’s a growing international element too, with students coming from more than 70 different countries. It’s no surprise to me that UVic is a destination university—have you seen our campus? And that’s not even considering our climate (it’s mid-January and soon we’ll start counting flowers and politely taunting the rest of the country with it all).
This has an impact on our classes, of course, resulting in a diverse group of students, which is something I try to keep in mind when designing my courses. Many of the students in ANTH 100 aren’t even sure what anthropology is. They take the course because it fits their schedule, someone suggested it, or they started at the beginning of the calendar alphabetically and this one seemed like a good idea. They bring different world views, different cultural norms, and different expectations. My hope is that by the end of the semester, I have inspired some of them to take more anthropology and that the rest at least have a broader sense of what anthropology brings to the world. In order to do this, I need to find a range of methods to inspire and engage students both in the classroom and out of it. Over the next few months, I hope to share with you some of my experiences and experiments with motivating students in first-year anthropology. Some days, it feels like I’ve tried everything, from Twitter to stickers, and bacon-flavoured crickets to i>Clicker quizzes. I’m always keen to try out options that might generate some interest from students. In next month’s post, I’ll tell you a bit about my latest combination of virtual badges and real life stickers and share a bit about how I’m using these to get people moving in ANTH 100.
Erin McGuire is a faculty member in the teaching stream at the University of Victoria. She will be guest blogging once a month for us this year. She promises to share tips, strategies, and ideas for teaching large introductory classes. You can follow Erin on Twitter @DrErinMcG.