At the University of Oklahoma, I teach a variety of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. My teaching is driven by a commitment to engaging students in critical theory. This is particularly important when teaching about health and religion in Native North America, topics that students may not previously have seen as linked. And just as my research considers the spread of new ideas through Native North America, so too does my pedagogical interest lie in studying how students encounter and learn new ideas.
Courses I regularly teach include:
- ANTH 1253: Folklore and Folklife (S-2012, F-2012, S-2014)
- ANTH 1823: Religion in Everyday Life (F-2011, S-2012, S-2013, S-2013 [Honors], F-2016 [Online])
- ANTH 3453: Contemporary Issues, Native North America (F-2011, S-2015)
- ANTH 4113: Anthropology Capstone (S-2014, F-2014, S-2015, F-2015)
- ANTH 4990: Independent Study [Advanced Folklore] (F-2014)
- ANTH 5003: Sociocultural Theory (F-2012, F-2013, F-2014)
- ANTH 5073: Anthropology of Religion (F-2016)
- ANTH 5563: Medicine and Society [Health and Healing] (F-2015)
- ANTH 6960: Directed Readings [Pilgrimage] (Su-2014)
- ANTH 6960: Directed Readings [Navajo Ethnography] (F-2015)
- ANTH 6960: Directed Readings [Folklore of Ecology] (F-2015)
- IAS 3940: Anthropology of Religion – OU in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Summer 2015)
I have also taught Native American Representation, Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology, and Advanced Composition.
As in my research, my engagement with critical theory is at the core of my teaching, regardless of the size or level of class. In introductory classes, such as the Anthropology of Religion or Folklore and Folklife, I have actively engaged large classrooms of students in critical thinking about inequality, social justice, and representation through class debates about skiing on effluent snow at the sacred San Francisco Peaks or workshops on the difficulties of representing American heritage without appropriating Native identity. Upper division courses have been particularly fruitful places to develop critical skills among students: the Anthropology of Religion class I taught in Brazil (summer 2015) was a great opportunity to immerse students in the Candomblé of Salvador so they could understand the racial dynamics of “White” Umbanda practice in Rio. And sending students around campus to document and unpack the representations of Native Americans found in our campus art was one of the most rewarding ways to tie together ideas of sovereignty, representation, and identity while bringing critical indigenous theory into my Contemporary Native Issues class.
My graduate courses focus heavily on critical theory as well. In the graduate-level sociocultural core theory class I developed for students from the other three sub-fields, students learn about the history of theory in order to understand and apply a contemporary critical lens to their own work. Student research in this class ranged from the effect of Brazil’s high c-section rate on newborn microbiomes to the political economy of ancient southwestern obsidian trading routes. My graduate class Medicine and Society asks students to seriously consider the ways in which the gendered discourses of medicine, the political-economies of faith healing, and the colonial history of global health initiatives create complex structural inequalities with real-life health effects, particularly among indigenous populations. Said one native student in reaction to these readings, “Economics and social class cannot be overstated when thinking about the human body… in many ways we are encouraged to see ourselves as less than whole.”
My teaching has been praised by my colleagues in positive evaluations each semester. In particular, I co-taught the Capstone seminar with the former chair of the department, so she had ample opportunity to assess my teaching. Her comments from my evaluation were glowing. “I have to say that she is one of the best teachers with whom I have worked,” this senior colleague commented. “She has innovative ideas about how to teach the lesson-of-the-day to students, and she is genuinely concerned about their learning and their progress through the class. It was a pleasure to teach with her.”
My courses have been positively evaluated by my students as well. On cumulative course evaluations, my students rated my overall teaching effectiveness as “Very Good,” scoring it at a 4.16 out of 5 (as compared to an average of 3.93 for the department and 3.84 for the college). On those same evaluations, my courses have also rated “Very Good,” averaging at 4.04 out of 5 (as compared to 3.88 for the department and 3.76 for the college). Student written evaluations tend to focus on the enthusiasm with which I teach and my high expectations for critical engagement. Of my Anthropology of Religion classes in particular students have commented that, “Marshall requires you to actively engage in her class and critically engage in the material…. You will learn critical thinking and how to look at the world in a different light.” One student claimed that this course, “Taught me to be more open minded and respectful of other religions and to understand them, instead of thinking of them as ‘exotic’ or ‘primitive’.” Several of my students commented that it was the best class they had taken at the University of Oklahoma. These positive interactions have led multiple advanced students to request independent study courses with me.
My scholarly interest in the spread of new ideas through Native North America is reflected in my pedagogical interest in studying how students encounter and consider new ideas. I have conducted research in collaboration with a colleague in the Education School on enhanced reading strategies for graduate students. During this semester-long, IRB-approved study, we researched the ways that targeted intervention assists students in extracting content from unfamiliar genres of academic writing. Preliminary research has been presented at the OU Teaching Scholars Initiative, and several publications in education-focused journals are expected.
Additionally, I have participated in workshops on teaching technology and syllabus design, and a semester-long Faculty Learning Community, which discussed the book How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. In Fall 2014 I ran a FLC focusing on innovative techniques for online learning.
Finally, my pedagogical mission has aimed at mentoring students as future teachers and researchers. I have used research funds to employ undergraduates as research assistants, training them in ethnographic skills like transcription and indexing. My focus on developing future educators has framed my approach to graduate students, as well. I oversee the online anthropology courses offered by graduate instructors, and have worked intensively with the online teaching office to redesign these courses in order to make them maximally effective. For the past 4 years, I have also offer a pre-semester workshop for these instructors, discussing how they can use the online medium to most productively engage students, as well as enact their own developing teaching philosophies in concrete ways. Finally, I successfully negotiated funds to take promising undergraduate and graduate students to the American Folklore Society meetings in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As well as facilitating direct contact with practicing professionals, the undergraduates benefitted from discussions with faculty at potential graduate programs, and the graduate student began collaborations that will lead to future presentations and publications. I benefitted from the deep satisfaction of seeing my students thrive.