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Accepted Paper:

Anthropology in practice: the role of unlearning, an emic perspective and indigenous knowledge in curriculum design and development  


Siew-Peng Lee (Brunel University London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows how anthropological research methodology and theory were applied in the design and development of training curricula for various audiences. Examples are taken from change management consulting, teaching IT to seniors and teaching English to international students.

Paper long abstract:

This paper gives an account of applying anthropological research skills and concepts outside mainstream academia in areas ranging from change management consulting to teaching laptop skills to older people at AGEUK, and in teaching English for academic purposes (EAP) to international students at British universities.

I will present an overview of how, on reflection, anthropological research skills were used in eliciting details in conducting training needs analyses (TNAs) in order to design and develop training materials for corporate clients; how, as an AGEUK volunteer, anthropological insights and concepts were used in designing a curriculum to teach technology to learners aged 60 to 90+, and in my current role as an EAP teacher preparing international students to cope with the linguistic and cultural shifts required when studying in British universities.

Through illustrations I will highlight how often:

(1) students have to 'unlearn' previously-held understanding of their world, just as trainee anthropologists must unlearn aspects of their own culture before they can 'make the familiar strange';

(2) as a teacher I have to appreciate the student's emic perspective, before I could find the most effective way of motivating and helping them explore new knowledge, technology, other unfamiliar ways of thinking; and

(3) a grasp of indigenous knowledge encompassing history and literature goes some way in innovative curriculum design.

I will conclude by exploring other areas in which anthropological study and its research methods could potentially be deployed outside the university to meet specific learning/business objectives.

Panel P012
Applying anthropology across disciplinary, professional and territorial borders: practical and engaging case studies [Applied Anthropology Network]