Courses Taught

EDUC547/ANTH547/URBS547. Anthropology and Education.

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Upcoming Plans to Teach: Fall 2017

Educational anthropologists have sought to understand how social persons are produced across “educational” contexts, such as in schools, within the family, among peers as well as through the consumption of media and commodities. As education is a key site in which societies define and debate their core values and imagine their ideal futures and future citizens, educational processes are also highly contentious and contested. Struggles to control educational policy and practice within a nation, then, involve politics that are deeply cultural and value-laden, and these debates, moreover, provide a window to core dilemmas at the heart of a society’s efforts to define itself at any particular historical moment.

This graduate seminar offers an introduction to the anthropological study of socialization and schooling in cross-cultural perspective. Because anthropologists have conceived of “education” in broad terms (i.e. not simply as formal schooling, but also as socialization and enculturation, involving processes of cultural production and, often, social reproduction) a productive dialogue about education can be examined in traditional, colonial, and complex industrial societies. Drawing on ethnographies and introductory anthropological theory, we will pick up one of the central aims of anthropological studies of education: to examine the relationships between education, culture, and society.

This course is not a methods course, but a good deal of time is spent reading ethnographies, and thus it is essential to understand ethnographic approaches and traditions. Sociocultural anthropologists traditionally gather data through long term, in-depth ethnographic engagement in a “field.” We write ethnographic accounts, usually book length, based upon the material gathered through participant observation, interviewing, and the collection of artifacts and documents. Emphasis in this course will be given to reading ethnographic research closely and critically to uncover the contributions of anthropological method, theory and epistemology to the understanding of educational contexts. Class discussions and assignments will focus on the content/design of research studies; how the problem is conceptualized or theorized and the explanatory power of the theoretical constructs deployed; the credibility of the arguments presented in the analysis and the use of evidence to support the claims that are made; the ethical stance of the researcher; and, given all of this, finally, the study’s contribution to explaining the problem studied.

EDUC545. Merit and America.

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

What constitutes merit? The notion of meritocracy has long been at the heart of varied discourses about the place of education in American society. Merit is most often understood as inhering in consistent and individual personality traits such as competency, intelligence and diligence. And yet, every individual is embedded in complex social worlds that are culturally specific and historically contingent.

For example, individual traits may be differently interpreted depending on the person’s race/ethnicity, gender, or class; desirable traits in one historical period may be undesirable in another. Drawing on a broad array of disciplines and literatures, this special topics course challenges students to consider how ideas of merit and its measurement are shaped by American history, culture and society. The course will interrogate how various articulations of merit come together to structure behaviors, institutions, and educational policies in contemporary, American settings.

This will in turn allow for the critical reflection of personal experiences on merit and its consequences.

EDUC668. Master’s Seminar in Education, Culture, and Society. (open only to students in Education, Culture, and Society)

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

This writing intensive, year-long seminar prepares ECS master’s students to cultivate a narrow area of expertise through the preparation of the ECS capstone: a research paper that demonstrates mastery through a close examination and original synthesis of previous research and argumentation. The course aims to:

  1. guide students through the conventions of academic culture and writing;
  2. encourage critical inquiry and intellectual engagement;
  3. provide a space for professional development and academic community building; and
  4. train students in intensive secondary source research through the production of a literature review.

As such, the ECS Master’s Paper takes the form of a critical review of scholarly literature on a narrowly defined topic of the student’s choice. The paper does not include the collection of original data, so it is not technically a ‘thesis’ – it does however follow many important conventions of academic culture. Although the paper does not (and cannot realistically) review all existing literature on a given topic, it must include the most pertinent works in the field organized into a cohesive narrative. Most importantly, it must demonstrate a mastery of the material and contain a clear argument rooted in the literature as it relates to a specific, narrowly defined topic.

In the Fall, this course focuses on students’ identifying a particular area of interest, reviewing literature in this area, and laying out the foundation of this paper. In the Spring, students will register for the second half of the course, which will focus more closely on one-on-one coaching, writing and elaboration of the literature review itself. The papers will be submitted for review and evaluation by ECS faculty on May 1.

EDUC682. Qualitative Modes of Inquiry.

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

As a first course in qualitative research, this course is intended both for those who plan to engage in research from an interpretive perspective and for those who wish a general familiarity with the theoretical assumptions, procedures, and standards of quality in such research.

This course will introduce students to the practical, methodological approaches, traditions, and theoretical frameworks through which these methods make sense, providing a broad overview of the sorts of questions and concepts that qualitative researchers engage.  This will be accomplished primarily through the mastering of the practical and technical aspects of doing qualitative research.  A great deal of time and activity fill focus on students’ learning the varieties of techniques that are used to collect, analyze and interpret qualitative data.  This course will also introduce the conventions of qualitative research reports, findings and writing, both through a critical engagement with existing literature and discussions of how researchers represent the ‘Other’ and themselves as positioned within the field.

Qualitative Modes of Inquiry is thus intended to provide a survey of the field of qualitative research and to focus on foundational philosophies of, and standpoints within, qualitative inquiry with an emphasis on ethnography and anthropology. The content of the course is well suited to any student, including those from outside this particular methodological approach and academic discipline, but they do provide a broad framework for making sense of the materials.   The course is designed to support students in developing a foundational understanding of the various considerations in and stages of qualitative research including the development of researchable questions, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, methodological stances, data collection and analysis techniques as well as conventions of writing. Course readings, assignments, discussions, and exercises will provide students with an understanding of the philosophical, conceptual, and practical foundations of qualitative research.