Webinars: A New Frontier in Archaeological Training

The SHA’s Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC), working with the Conference Committee, offers a range of training and professional development opportunities at the annual conference. We have workshops, roundtables, and fora covering many topics, most developed in response to member interest and needs. To augment these, the APTC plans to try year-round training (not during the conference). You have the opportunity to be part of this on July 17.

This past winter, members of the APTC started kicking around the idea of putting together a set of webinars to offer training and instructional opportunities for the SHA during the year between the conferences. These would supplement the annual conference workshops, which will remain unchanged.

Image courtesy of David Roethler

Webinars (a portmanteau of “web” and “seminars”) are on-line sessions where attendees can interact (audio at least, also video if people have cameras in their computers) and, depending on the software involved, view the moderator’s desktop together. Webinars are increasingly common in business and other fields, and they allow  people scattered across the globe to meet to discuss business, undergo training, or just catch up, all at minimal cost.

The APTC would like to see members of the SHA interested in hosting or attending such web-based training sessions step forward with ideas for webinars. These could range from technical material like database management, curation techniques, or remote sensing applications to theoretical, topical, or regional topics. Professional development topics such as job hunting or transforming your dissertation into a book (thanks, Myriam Arcangeli [@Terrailles]) would also work. The field is very wide open.

Some Things to Consider

One of the benefits of this medium is the low cost. In its initial stages, we would run the webinars through systems such as Google Hangout (with up to 10 seats) or Blackboard Collaborate (for more). With no room to rent, no travel to subsidize, and only the host’s fees (if there are any) to defray, we envision these to be among the most cost-effective development tools available.

There are, of course, a few obstacles. Depending on your preferred method of content delivery (audio only, audio and video, chat), you place different data and computing demands on participants. If an attendee is on a dial-up connection, they may not be able to stream video. Also, some of the webinar delivery systems require downloaded content that, while not usually excessively resource-hungry, may require some lead time for users to get approved and installed (I’m looking at you, Department of Defense archaeologists).

Webinars and the Student Member

As webinars let people log in from wherever they can get internet coverage, they do not require the travel funding that can be a big impediment to attendance. This is particularly true for college students. We are particularly interested to get feedback from students about what kinds of webinars they would be interested in attending.

The scheduling flexibilities of webinars will allow us to focus on applying for graduate schools, preparing for conferences, and other topics that would be more useful earlier in the year than the conference allows. The APTC will be working with the Student Subcommittee of the APTC to develop student-oriented opportunities.

Getting the Ball Rolling

If you have an idea about a topic, you can e-mail me at cdrexler@uark.edu, tweet me (@cgdrexler), or stick an idea in the comments section.

If you’d like to host a webinar at some point in the future, send me a note and I’ll get you an invite to our first webinar on July 17, from 2-3 pm (Eastern). This inaugural webinar will focus on… webinars! We’ll focus on topic ideas, get some background on content development, and discuss the use of the technology. Drop me a line if you want to participate!


Amber Graft-Weiss and Terry Brock contributed to a lively Twitter discussion on this topic that helped develop and refine where we would like the webinars to focus. Shelley Keith, of Southern Arkansas University, advised on materials related to webinar content development.

Teaching and Teaching Portfolios in the Academic Job Search

By Stacey Lynn Camp, University of Idaho

One of the biggest challenges of an academic job search is convincing a hiring committee that your skills and research interests are perfectly tailored to the advertised faculty position. Many advertised positions are ambiguous to begin with, with broad calls that span geographical and temporal specializations. Teaching responsibilities are also sometimes left to the applicant’s imagination, with the candidate charged with the task of deciphering what is expected of them in terms of their teaching and advising load.

Deciphering Teaching Expectations
If it is unclear what a university expects in terms of a teaching load (how many classes you will be expected to teach per academic year) or teaching pedagogy (how you approach teaching), you should spend a considerable amount of time looking into published material associated with the hiring department and its faculty on staff. This information can often be found on a department’s website, where course offerings are usually listed underneath a faculty member’s profile. At my institution, a number of faculty members in my department have published their teaching philosophies in teaching pedagogy journals.

One hint that teaching skills are prized at a university is a request for an applicant’s teaching portfolio, which can be made in the initial job announcement or requested from the applicant once they have made it through the first or second stage of the interview process. If, however, the job advertisement does not require extensive documentation of your teaching experiences, you should still take time to consider and research how many courses you will be teaching in the position, how many students you will be teaching in your courses, what courses you might be able or expected to teach in the department, the textbooks, book chapters, and articles you intend to assign as course texts, and the pedagogical strategies you will employ in the classroom.

Creative Commons license held by Stanford EdTechNo matter where you interview, questions about your teaching will inevitably arise. Even at the most competitive research schools you will be expected to teach a few classes every year, and it is important that you think carefully about how you will undertake course instruction and employ the pedagogical values that you hold dear in the classroom.

If you are one of the fortunate few who make it to the first or second round of interviews for the position, you should ask questions about the teaching and advising expectations and how those balance out with research and publication requirements of the position. These questions are important to the faculty hiring committee, as they show that the candidate has the foresight to consider what their responsibilities will be in this position.

Developing a Philosophy of Teaching
To demonstrate your commitment to teaching, you should consult publications on teaching pedagogy. There is ample literature on the topic that is both broad and discipline-specific in scope; at the very least, it is helpful to be aware of commonly utilized teaching strategies in academia and within the field of archaeology. Recently published literature within our own discipline includes Baxter’s Archaeological Field Schools: A Guide for Teaching in the Field (2009), Burke and Smith’s Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom (2007), and Mytum’s Global Perspectives on Archaeological Field Schools: Constructions of Knowledge and Experience (2012). Citing this literature in your teaching philosophy or mentioning it during interviews shows that you care about your students and you take the role of a faculty mentor and instructor seriously enough to read up on the subject matter.

When I applied for my current position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Idaho, a teaching portfolio was part of the initial request for applications. My teaching portfolio comprised of qualitative and quantitative data from my teaching evaluations, letters of support from professors who supervised me as their teaching assistant, letters of support from former students, handouts and assignments from my classes, syllabi from courses I hoped to teach at the University of Idaho, examples of graded papers and my feedback on student assignments, a faculty member’s assessment of my teaching in the classroom. and, perhaps most importantly, my teaching philosophy statement.

I knew that the university was a second tier research institute, which meant that my teaching and research experiences would be equally valued in the hiring process. As a result, I spent a great deal of time writing and thinking about my teaching philosophy. The teaching philosophy should not merely be a descriptive compilation of your accomplishments (e.g. teaching awards, good student evaulations, training in teaching pedagogy, etc.); the hiring committee should be able to find that information on your Curriculum Vitae. Rather, your teaching statement should be a coherent, consistent narrative that describes how you approach teaching, how that approach aligns with your research and dissertation project, and how you see yourself evolving as a teacher over the course of the next five or six years as an assistant professor.

Look at the teaching philosophy as an opportunity to explore the ideas, concepts, and methodologies you desire to impart to your students. This involves a bit of self-reflection; some questions you should ask yourself are: what is it that has driven me toward a career in anthropology? What is it that intrigues me about this discipline? What are the two or three key points or methodologies I want students to know when they leave my classroom? How does my work intersect with other disciplines in meaningful and interesting ways? How can I make anthropology and archaeology relevant to non-anthropology majors?

An Example of a Teaching Philosophy in Historical Archaeology
Let me give you an example of how I answered these questions and composed a teaching philosophy that reflected my personal and academic research interests. What I have always liked about historical archaeology is its multiscaler approach to interpreting a site, a community, or a region. By comparing and contrasting multiple data sources, historical archaeologists can identify gaps in historical knowledge as well as discover contradictions between what is said in the documentary record and what is found in the archaeological record. I encourage students to be active participants in this discovery process by giving them data to analyze and deconstruct, and devote nearly half of my Introduction to Historical Archaeology course at the University of Idaho to critically analyzing and assessing the limitations and advantages of using different sources of information, such as photographs, maps, probate inventories, newspapers, oral histories, and, of course, archaeological assemblages.

Thinking critically about where data originated, who produced the data, and for what purposes the data was collected or written is not simply a skill limited to the practice of historical archaeology. In today’s media saturated world, it is crucial that students, as consumers of media, learn how to assess the intentions of media producers and the validity of the data cited by the media. So, to make a long story short, one of my primary teaching goals is to prepare students to be critical consumers of modern day media and to understand how to verify the authenticity of the media’s claims using the tools of historical archaeology. My course readings, my assignments, and my in-class discussions all work together to impart this skill set to students.

Creative Commons license held by user mystuart

Defining Teaching Experiences
For some applicants, the very thought of organizing a teaching portfolio evokes fear and anxiety. This is perhaps especially true for applicants whose teaching experiences have been limited, comprising of undergraduate mentoring in laboratory or field school settings or serving as teaching assistants for classes. At the very least, you will be expected to demonstrate that you have already started to build a strong repertoire of teaching and mentoring experiences that will serve you well in a faculty position

Even if you have yet to teach your own course, you should not discount other types of interactions and “teaching moments” with undergraduates. These experiences come in many forms, such as working with lab assistants, directing field crews, mentoring and advising undergraduates, or serving as a teaching assistant and directing discussion sections. Much of what we do as archaeologists involves hands-on learning and instruction, but it is up to the applicant to draw connections between what initially may be viewed as atypical forms of instruction and classroom teaching.

Concluding Thoughts on Teaching Philosophies
If you are hired for the position, you will be thankful for devoting energy and time to fleshing out your teaching objectives and philosophy. Teaching statements are an essential component of faculty assessment. When I went up for my third year review at the University of Idaho, I revised and edited my teaching philosophy statement that I submitted as a job applicant. I will be revising it once again when I go up for tenure next year.

Thinking through your approach to teaching can also result in research and publication opportunities. I have written on teaching pedagogy in archaeology (Camp 2010), and how giving students the chance to do archaeology over the course of an academic year and outside of the traditional summer field school model can help solve real-world issues facing campuses.

Inspired by positive student responses to my integration of archaeological experience into the classroom setting, I continue to seek new and innovative ways of delivering course content to my students. From my perspective, then, the best teaching philosophies are ones open to student input, self-critique, and continual revision as one grows and matures as a teacher.


Works Cited

Baxter, Jane Eva (2009) Archaeological Field Schools: A Guide for Teaching in the Field. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Burke, Heather and Claire Smith (eds.) (2007) Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom. One World Archaeology Series. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Camp, Stacey Lynn (2010) Teaching with Trash: Archaeological Insights on University Waste Management, World Archaeology 42(3):430-42.

Mytum, Harold (ed.) (2012) Global Perspectives on Archaeological Field Schools: Constructions of Knowledge and Experience. New York: Springer.

Workshops at Leicester

Once again, the SHA is hosting a slate of workshops at our annual conference. In Leicester, we are pleased to be able to offer five workshops that provide numerous different training opportunities. If you’re going to Leicester, take a look at these workshops, which we be held on the Wednesday preceding the start of the conference (January 9th).

(W1) Public Archaeology Toolbox: Project Archaeology Investigation Shelter

Hosted by Sarah Miller and Amber Grafft-Weiss

Full Day Workshop

Project Archaeology is a national heritage education program of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Montana State University.  Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter, a curriculum guide for teachers, was endorsed by the National Council of Social Studies in the U.S.  Professional development workshops are conducted by facilitators who provide training and mentoring to local educators who wish to incorporate archaeology into their classroom teaching.  This full day workshop will introduce SHA members to Investigating Shelter and model classroom activities.  Workshop participants will receive the curriculum guide and “Investigating a Tabby Slave Cabin,” which was developed through a partnership with national Project Archaeology, National Park Service, and the Florida Public Archaeology Network.  Plan to share experience from other public archaeology programs and discuss affordances and constraints of Project Archaeology materials for international partners.

(W2) An Introduction to Cultural Property Protection of Historical and Post-Medieval Archaeological Sites during Military Operations

Hosted by Christopher McDaid and Duane Quates

Full Day Workshop

This workshop will introduce the international framework for cultural property protection during military operations, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict.  We will then address the ways in which the system is challenged by sites from the last 500 years.   Cultural properties such as Leptis Magna, an ancient Roman city in Libya, are granted protection due to their listing on the World Heritage list.  However few of the properties on that list are the types that are the focus of the research of the members of the SHA who desire to study the rise of the modern world.  This focus of SHA means that sites of importance to SHA members are explicitly associated with the expansion of global capitalism, or were associated with the expansion of the European powers, or with the forced relocation of people.  Sites associated with these challenging and controversial topics are not the types of sites that often receive official heritage recognition.  Unless the researchers and their community partners make the importance of these sites known, the international heritage framework will continue to overlook these significant aspects of our shared human heritage.

Topics addressed will an overview of the militaries’ own heritage management programs, the international framework for cultural property protection, how scholars can communicate information to military planners effectively, and reviews of several case studies involving military operations and cultural property protection.

(W3a and W3b) Fundamentals of Archaeological Curation

Hosted by Kelly Abbott

Two half-day workshops, register for either morning or afternoon session

This course is for those with site experience who are looking to refresh their knowledge or for people who are unfamiliar with archaeological conservation. We cover materials and how they deteriorate and practical exercises for protecting and storing finds. There is an opportunity to share your experiences and solve current issues.

(W4) Excavating the Image: The MUA Photoshop Workshop

Hosted by T. Kurt Knoerl

Full Day Workshop

This Photoshop workshop covers basic photo processing techniques useful to historians and archaeologists. We will cover correcting basic problems in photos taken underwater and on land, restoring detail to historic images, and preparation of images for publications. We will also cover the recovery of data from microfilm images such as hand written letters. No previous Photoshop experience is needed but you must bring your own laptop with Photoshop already installed on it (version 7 or newer). While images used for the workshop are provided by me, feel free to bring an image you’re interested in working on. Warning…restoring historic images can be addictive!

(W5) Submerged Cultural Resources Awareness Workshop

Hosted by Whitney Anderson, Dave Ball, Barry Bleichner, Amanda Evans, Kim Faulk, Connie Kelleher, and Sarah Watkins-Kenney

Full Day Workshop

Cultural resource managers, land managers, and archaeologists are often tasked with managing and reviewing assessments for submerged cultural resources.  This workshop is designed to introduce non-specialists to issues specific to underwater archaeology.  Participants will learn about different types of underwater cultural heritage sites, and the techniques used to mitigate impacts at pre-development/pre-planning archaeological assessment stage and subsequent survey, excavation and recording of sites of archaeological significance (also referred to as Phase I and II surveys).  This workshop is not intended to teach participants how to do underwater archaeology, but will introduce different investigative techniques, international Best Practices, and existing legislation (specific examples will focus on archaeological management and protection measures employed in Ireland and the United Kingdom).  The purpose of this workshop is to assist non-specialists in recognizing the potential for submerged cultural resources in their areas of impact, budgeting for submerged cultural resource investigations, reviewing submerged cultural resource assessments, and providing sufficient background information to assist in making informed decisions regarding the underwater archaeological heritage.  This full-day workshop will consist of a series of interactive lectures and demonstrations.  All participants will receive an informational CD with presentation notes, supporting legislation and contacts, and referrals related to the workshop lectures.