Bioarchaeology of Care Scaffolded Assignment

    I teach a course I call "(Dis)ability and Care: Bioarchaeological Perspectives" - in this course we cover a lot of ground from critical disability theory to the new developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care. This Winter term 2020 is the second run through of the course, and while there's lots I could say about this course and what we do, I thought it would be useful to reflect on my main assignment as we go!

    Above: Illustration RJG, a 'broken Roman'.

    The main assessment in this course is a four piece, scaffolded assignment. We start, early in term, with a project proposal, around mid-term we generate a large assemblage of research, and at the end of term create a paper/poster and do a little presentation.

    The assignment's main aim is to re-evaluate a published palaeopathological case study (from pre 2000) using the Index of Care to see if a case for care, impairment, disability, etc. can be constructed. (See assignment outline)

    In the first stage of this assignment, I have students brainstorm characteristics that make a good case study, and work together to use library resources to compile some examples and evaluate what best suits the project guidelines. Every student will have to do a different case study, so that we have some diversity of topics and ideas in the classroom - they 'claim' their project studies on the online-learning-tool (Desire2Learn). 

    1) The first part of the assessment is a project proposal. In their proposal, students introduce their study and justify WHY this needs re-investigation, specifically in terms of the provision of care and interpretation of impairment/disability. They also do some external research to find five additional sources that they will use in their Index of Care to understand symptoms, cultural context, geography & environment, diet, and many many more facets that would impact an individual's experience. 

    2) The second part of the assessment is to complete the online Index of Care . This requires a significant amount of research and synthesis of information. 

    3&4) The final part of the assignment is to further synthesize their findings and interpretations into a poster (previous years I've done a paper, this year I wanted students to be able to take advantage of an undergraduate conference and repurpose their posters if they chose to). They will present their project and findings in a 3-minute thesis style presentation in the last week of class. 


    February 9, 2020: 

    So far, students have selected their projects and submitted their proposals. One approach I took this term, that may be useful to students as they progress through these challenging topics, was to brainstorm thematic similarities between their projects. We worked as a group (ca. 22 + me) to come up with categories and to summarize where each student's study best fit. This essentially generated a series of 'working groups' within the classroom.

    Above Image: Snapshot of our brainstorming session to identify working groups. Students names have been blurred out. Groups that seemed most meaningful and useful to the students were those assoiated with pathological conditions. We landed on divisions into: Trauma/Arthritis; Infectious Disease; Cancer/Tumors; Congenital Conditions (2 groups). 


    While students are expected to submit their own independent project for this course, I believe that no research really truly happens in isolation. So these working groups are going to act as tools and sounding boards for the students as they progress through the stages of the assessment - a way to encourage collaboration among students that may not have previously worked together. I have actually used these working groups to divide the class for an active-learning exercise next week (more info to come!).






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