Assessing Knowledge Mobilization and Its Application in Teaching Archaeological Theory

George Nicholas

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: George Nicholas, Department of Archaeology

Project team: Chris Springer, research assistant

Timeframe: June 2014 to April 2015

Funding: $4,975

Course addressed: ARCH 471W – Archaeological Theory

Final Report: View George Nicholas' final project report (PDF)

Description: This project will evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching methods and student learning practices in an upper-level theory course that many students have frequently described as “one of the most challenging but rewarding courses taken at SFU.”

Archaeological Theory (ARCH 471W) is a very intensive capstone course required for all Archaeological Majors. The course covers the history of development of archaeological theory(ies) and their precursors over many centuries, as well as contemporary theory and practice, epistemology, and ethics. The range of ideas and their applications conveyed, which is basically a history of Western science and history, is crucial for students’ understanding of where ideas come from, how to distinguish between ideas that have merit and those that don’t, and what are the social and political implications of these ideas.

The challenge in the classroom has been to develop means for students to engage with the essential information provided in course materials in productive ways. Many students have difficulty in managing and demonstrating knowledge of the information presented, as reflected in their grades or by other measures. My concern is thus identifying more effective means of knowledge mobilization, application, and retention. Through this project, a survey will be developed and administered to students who have taken this course for the past ten years. The survey data will then be analyzed alongside course evaluations available and anonymized grade records for this period.

Questions addressed:

  • What do students find to be the primary way they absorb/retain information in class: through lectures; through readings; through group discussion; or through a combination?
  • How effective are reading guides and viewing guides in directing student’s attention to what is most important?
  • What alternative strategies for promoting critical writing and thinking skills can be considered for particular course units or goals?
  • What changes to the course design should be made based on findings from 1-3 above?

Knowledge sharing: The results of this study will be shared with departmental colleagues in the following way: 1) a copy of the final report will be circulated to other faculty members, and subsequently discussed in a department meeting; 2) results will also be shared and discussed in a special seminar convened with interested graduate students, since many of them currently TA or will be teaching in the future.