Becoming Binford: Fun Ways of Teaching Archaeological Theory and Method

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    In an age of populism and celebrity culture our approach to teaching archaeological theory and method directs entrenched (and often unconscious) social and behavioural attitudes towards the analysis of a specific object, the ‘celebritized’ archaeologist, in order to enhance students' engagement with a traditionally difficult topic, archaeological theory and method. Harnessing students' curiosity and channeling their ability to learn effectively is nowhere more important than in teaching theoretical topics; those that too often are caricatured as disconnected from the real world of archaeological experience. This paper outlines some active learning strategies that we use to increase the effectiveness of teaching archaeological theory and method, a competent understanding of which is essential to well-conducted public archaeology. The basic notion behind active learning is that student understanding is increased through engaging in ‘fun’ activities that reinforce the information being presented, especially when this is tied to previously acquired concepts. Through a range of interactive instructional strategies based around the theme of ‘Becoming Binford’, including archaeological action figures, trading cards and a character-based role play, we aim to make students aware of the limited and provisional nature of archaeological knowledge, facilitate different styles of learning and provide some sense of the panorama that is archaeology. While archaeological teachers have serious concepts to communicate, this does not mean that teaching archaeology cannot be enjoyable. In fact, we would argue that as students have more ‘fun’ they become more motivated, engage more effectively with the material and increase their learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-49
    Number of pages15
    JournalPublic Archaeology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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