Culture From the Outside in and the Inside Out: Experiential Education and the Continuum of Theory, Practice, and Policy
By Rone, Tracy R
Abstract. Increasingly, instructional pedagogies in learning contexts from classrooms to boardrooms are couched within experiential learning paradigms. The field trip is a teaching pedagogy that draws on experiential learning. The author aims to demonstrate how a field trip to Sea Islands, South Carolina, presents an opportunity for undergraduate anthropology students to experience a learning continuum from course readings and films to a firsthand experience. The effectiveness of the field trip as an instructional pedagogy is assessed. Best practices for incorporating field trips into instruction are presented. Keywords: anthropology, field trip, Gullah Sea Islands
Existing literature demonstrates that effective teaching and learning from kindergarten through higher education is fostered by (1) active learning through field experiences; (2) experiences that promote interaction, both between teachers and learners and among learners; (3) instructional strategies that respect and embrace different learning styles; and (4) learning experiences that connect course material to prior knowledge (see Hutchings and Wutzdorff 1988; Keeton 1976; Kendall 1990; Kendrick 1996; Runkel, Harrison, and Runkel 1972; Warren 1998; Wink 2000). Major corporations are also reporting the effectiveness of experiential educational pedagogies, such as field trips, in increasing productivity, morale, and focus (Jackson 2006; Laabs 1993). Jeffrey Cantor (1997) defines experiential education as “learning activities that engage the learner directly in the phenomena being studied” (1). Examples of experiential learning include service learning, cultural journalism projects, exchange programs, cooperative education, social science laboratory courses, adventure education, and field trips. The roots of experiential learning are as old as civilization, as the informal learning embedded within the processes of enculturation that help to ensure human survival draw on similar forms of firsthand active encounters with the social world. Formal explanations of experiential education can be understood through Kurt Hahn’s use of Plato’s “The Republic” to design Outward Bound programs, David A. Kolb’s (1984) Experiential Learning Cycle, and Paolo Freire’s educational theories (1970, 1998). American educational philosopher John Dewey (1997) viewed a critical but not directly equivalent relationship between experience and education. For Dewey, continuity and interaction were the two fundamental criteria for determining the quality of experience and its implications for education. Dewey called for education that extended the lived experiences of the learner.
Mary Wright (2003) groups benefits of experiential learning into four categories: substantive, methodological, pedagogical, and transitional. Benefits attributed to experiential education include facilitating comprehension of abstract concepts, enhancing students’ methodological skills and research orientations, improving student learning processes and classroom climate, and facilitating undergraduates’ transition between the college experience and the workforce (Wright 2000). Further, the Carnegie Foundation’s Higher Education and Development of Moral and Civic Responsibility Project (MCR) addresses the important linkage between experiential pedagogies as strategies necessary for the moral and civic education of undergraduates (Colby et al. 2003).
The focus of this article is the immersion field trip, or what Rik Scarce (1997) categorizes as an example of short-term experiential education. Scarce claims, “Field trips offer the sort of enriching experiences that Dewey recognized as so central to successful educational endeavors because they are experiences, lived social events that become ways of knowing” (219). A field trip is a group trip that affords lived social experiences in a social context for the purpose of firsthand observation and learning. Trip duration is the determining factor that distinguishes an immersion field trip from a field trip, with a field trip lasting less than a day and an immersion field trip taking place over a period of days. Field trips are typically associated with kindergarten through twelfth grade instructional pedagogies, and are generally perceived as more passive learning experiences. This relaxed tone is mirrored in dictionaries, as the word “excursion” is typically included in definitions of field trip, thereby associating field trips with a sense of passivity and pleasure. In contrast, field trips have the potential to be intensely engaging, integrative, and transformative experiences affording opportunities for students to question power, access, privilege, and positionality. As Scarce claimed, “Field trips may be instrumental in challenging students’ preconceived notions and in breaking down stereotypes” (220).
Field trips have been documented as effective teaching and learning tools by sociologists, anthropologists, and environmental scientists at the undergraduate level (Garner and Gallo 2005; Scarce 1997; Wright 2000). In the social sciences, descriptions of the field trip as an instructional pedagogy reveal a potentially rich and effective yet greatly underused teaching method (Scarce; Wright). Anthropologists, including Serena Nanda (2000), Ruth Krulfeld (2001), and Lourdes Diaz Soto (2001) describe the effectiveness of incorporating museum visits, field trips, and field exercises into undergraduate instruction in cultural anthropology as a pedagogical strategy for developing ethnographic skills and other content-area expertise integral to anthropological training.
Drawing from instruction of two semester- long course offerings of an introductory linguistic anthropology course that culminated in a field trip to the Gullah Sea Island region of South Carolina, I address two guiding questions: (1) Is the field trip an effective pedagogy for introducing undergraduate students to core theoretical and methodological concepts in cultural and linguistic anthropology? (2) What are recommendations for successfully incorporating the field trip into course instruction?
Getting to the Inside Out from the Outside In
For the collegiate learner in humanities and social sciences courses, the field trip has the potential to generate an experience comparable to laboratory settings for the natural and biological sciences student. Undergraduate courses across a range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, education, and religion, generally aim to explore some aspect of human economic, social, cultural, and political experiences of populations from around the world. Most often this is done through a synthesis of materials including lectures, written texts, recordings, slides, and films. Whether learning is mediated through pipettes, Petri dishes, two- way observational mirrors, or questionnaires, a fundamental goal of undergraduate courses is to equip students with the theoretical and methodological tools necessary for understanding and practicing the science of the course’s discipline.
Cultural and linguistic anthropology, sociology, and education, as well as other fields that draw extensively on qualitative analysis of human behavior in naturally occurring human interaction, face a greater challenge in locating firsthand learning moments within the realm of their students’ classroom experiences. Book chapters, journal articles, case studies, fulllength ethnographies, films, recordings, and increasingly Web-based learning have provided a lens for illuminating the daily lives of people among different cultural groups from around the globe. In some cases, the instructor’s firsthand experience with the populations studied is integral to course curriculum. In other cases, faculty may host a guest speaker who either is a member of the community studied or who has studied the culture. Because of anthropology’s focus on “other” cultures, which generally has privileged the study of populations outside the United States, field trips to sites of study illuminated through course readings and video are rare and often not logistically or economically feasible.
Pioneered during the early 1900s in the British school of anthropology by Bronislaw Malinowski, in the late 1800s in American sociology by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, and in the 1910s in American anthropology by Franz Boas, the concept of ethnography has remained a hallmark of both of these disciplines. Ethnography is the process through which social and behavioral scientists illuminate social contexts through intensive, longitudinal firsthand observations. Critical to this approach is the emic perspective, which privileges understanding through the native or insider’s perspective of the members of the community who are the focus on the research. At the core of the anthropologist’s methodological tool kit are participant observation, establishing rapport and allegiances, talking with other people who are typically strangers in familiarity and culture, conducting interviews, and writing field notes. Generally, these reflexive observational skills are taught through a series of field assignments (Crane and Angrosino 1984; Levine et al. 1980; McCurdy 1997; Scarce 1997; Spradley and McCurdy 1988; Wright 2000). Although I have used ethnographic assignments in my own practice of training students, because of limitations of time and transportation, students often complete these assignments in contexts that do not stretch them far beyond their normative channels of access and interaction. Despite the widely accepted importance of fieldwork and ethnography within the social and behavioral sciences, the practice of teaching in these fields is generally characterized by understanding culture through learning experiences that are limited to the university classroom and availed through reading, lectures, and media including film, recordings, and slides. Ironically, although the insider’s perspective is so critical to the practice of anthropology, students in most American undergraduate classrooms come to understand human experience of other cultures from a mediated outsider’s perspective, and this irony is the primary inspiration for this article. I advocate that learning experiences afforded through the field trip enable students to approach learning from the outside in and the inside out. Why the Sea Islands?
Whether through traditional Gullah Uncle Remus (Harris 1881) tales; DuBose Heyward’s (1925) Porgy that became Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess (1935); Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water is Wide (1972) that was later made into the movie, Conrack (1974); the work of acclaimed visual artist Jonathan Green; the region’s distinctive cuisine or sweetgrass baskets; the 1991 movie, Daughters of the Dust; or media accounts of the “extinction,” threat,” or “endangerment” of traditional culture, many Americans have had some exposure to Sea Island or Gullah-Geechee culture. Supporters of cultural preservation perceive the Gullah Sea Islands and culture as a regional and national cultural treasure. The name “Gullah- Geechee” denotes four key meanings: population of people, geographic region, culture, and Creole language. “Gullah” refers to the group of people who are the descendants of enslaved Africans brought from Africa in the seventeenth century during the transatlantic slave trade to support the rice, indigo, and cotton plantation economies along the southern Atlantic coast. The region’s locals use the name Geechee. The geographic region of the Sea Islands is a 250-mile cluster of islands, within thirty miles of the southern coast of the United States, from Little River, North Carolina, along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, to St. John’s River, Florida. In South Carolina, the region that includes the Sea Islands and the coastal mainland is often referred to as the Low Country.
From their delivery to the coastal region in the seventeenth century until the 1950s, the Gullah people occupied the Sea Islands in relative physical and cultural isolation. The isolation and demography of the islands resulted in the most unique African American population in the United States, culturally and biologically, and fostered the maintenance and preservation of some cultural practices, including fishing, storytelling, music, woodworking, pottery, burials, and dance, that scholars believe are more directly linked to their African heritage. The language indigenous to Gullah-Geechee people is an English-based Creole language, with an English-based vocabulary and syntax and grammar that are more closely related to West African languages.
Various aspects of Gullah-Geechee culture, such as arts, crafts, foodways, family life, and religious rituals (especially those related to West African populations) have been the subjects of study for scholars. The African continuities documented among the Gullah- Geechee support the argument of anthropologist Melville Herskovits (1941), who claimed that African cultural practices had not been destroyed by the horrors of the transatlantic journey. Linguist Lorenzo Turner’s 1949 study of Gullah creole and its linkages to African languages and Patricia Jones-Jackson ethnography of storytelling are examples of some of the research most relevant to a Language and Culture course.Various aspects of Gullah-Geechee culture, such as arts, crafts, foodways, family life, and religious rituals (especially those related to West African populations) have been the subjects of study for scholars. The African continuities documented among the Gullah-Geechee support the argument of anthropologist Melville Herskovits (1941), who claimed that African cultural practices had not been destroyed by the horrors of the transatlantic journey. Linguist Lorenzo Turner’s 1949 study of Gullah creole and its linkages to African languages and Patricia Jones-Jackson ethnography of storytelling are examples of some of the research most relevant to a Language and Culture course.
In the 1950s, industrial pollution from the Savannah River poisoned Daufuskie’s oysters, causing many residents to leave the island for work and education. Then, by the 1980s, cost-prohibitive property taxes eroded the ability for many Gullah- Geechee families who had lived in the region since the 1700s to continue to own their land, threatening the possible extinction of the Gullah’s traditional life ways into regional and national media. The increasing threat of cultural extinction and tensions between developers and cultural preservations led Congressman James E. Clyburn to sponsor the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Act (which passed in March 2005) to protect the region. More recent scholarship has mirrored the shift in the economy from traditional agriculture to tourism and development by attending to issues of heritage tourism (Jackson 2001), the impact of tourism (Faulkenberry et al. 2000), and gated communities (Coggeshall 2003).
I selected the Gullah Sea Islands (specifically St. Helena Island and Hilton Head Island) as a focal point in this anthropology course for three main reasons. First, the Sea Islands are the most anthropologically and culturally significant regional and national site within driving proximity of Emory University in Atlanta. Second, the intellectual and societal significance of this region is supported by the availability of a wealth of cultural and linguistic materials, including ethnographies, sound recordings, and film. Last, through my participation in the National Park Service Conference, “Places of Cultural Memory: African Reflections on the American Landscape” in May 2001 and the 2003 Summer Carolina Summer Institute for Community Scholars, I was able to build the rapport and relationships necessary for the trip.
The primary aim of the course Language and Culture is to introduce undergraduates to the core concepts and methods in linguistic anthropology. Secondary aims include (1) increasing student knowledge about the Gullah region, its people, and their culture; (2) challenging students to think critically about the tensions between representations of preserving culture and preserving culture; and (3) increasing student understanding of the linkages between the social sciences and policy.
Data from this article were drawn from my instruction of two, 15- week, semester long offerings (spring 2002 and spring 2004) of Language and Culture, an undergraduate course in linguistic anthropology taught at Emory College (the undergraduate unit of Emory University), a private majority white university located in Atlanta. This course, which was crosslisted with the program in linguistics, was taught two days a week for seventy-five minutes per class period. Course content illuminated core theoretical and methodological approaches in linguistic anthropology, with instructional units on language socialization, speech communities, language and social identity, narrative, language and performance, and language and power. I selected course materials that aimed to foster student learning about language and culture in diverse populations in the United States and around the world, and the course incorporated a focus on the cultural and linguistic study of the Gullah- Geechee of the southeast United States.
In planning the field trip component of the course, I was committed to consulting with Gullah-Geechee key cultural experts for recommendations for course readings and films and field trip logistics and activities. Also, I was guided by Dewey’s (1997) understanding that effective education is facilitated through building a continuum. The course unit on Gullah-Geechee culture illuminated the history of the region; Gullah Creole and its implications for language change, cultural preservation, and educational policy; and Gullah aesthetic representations, such as storytelling. Readings for the course’s Gullah units were drawn extensively from Patricia Jones-Jackson (1987), Mary Arnold Twining and Keith E. Baird (1991), Michael Montgomery (1994), Marquetta L. Goodwine (1998), William S. Pollitzer (1999), and for the 2004 offering of the course, the National Park Service’s (NPS) “Low Country Gullah Culture Special Resource Study” (2005). The 1991 film, Family Across the Sea, which documents the historical and cultural ties between the Gullah people of South Carolina and Sierre Leone; the 1998 film, The Language You Cry In, which extends the 1930s work of Lorenzo Turner to the 1990s work of anthropologist Joe Opala and ethnomusicologist Cynthia Schmidt, which traces a Mende song, a burial hymn from the Gullah in 1990s Georgia to eighteenth century Sierre Leone; and Jones-Jackson’s (1987) When Roots Die: Endangered Traditions on the Sea Islands, an ethnography of the storytelling, prayers, and folkways of the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina served as primary points of departure.
The 2004 course offering further emphasized cultural change by examining the impact of tourism and development on the region. In addition to drawing on the NPS (2005) study, I drew on colleagues in planning the 2004 trip, which included collaborating with anthropologist John Michael Coggeshall of Clemson University and Joni Kost, a key cultural consultant and resident, at the time of the course offering, of Beaufort, South Carolina. Students were required to read two articles written by Coggeshall and colleagues about the impact of tourism and development on the region. Further, both of these colleagues met the class on St. Helena Island. Coggeshall guided us through an exploration of St. Helena Island and Hilton Head Island and facilitated discussion about the marked contrast in the development of Hilton Head Island relative to St. Helena Island. Field Trip
Thirty-nine students were enrolled in the 2002 (n = 25) and 2004 (n = 14) offerings of the course. The smaller size of the 2004 offering reflects the course’s approval by Emory College as a writing requirement course and the associated lower enrollment cap. Twenty-four students participated in the three-day weekend field trip in 2002 (n = 15) and 2004 (n = 9). In 2002, I worked with a colleague, Emory religion professor Dianne Stewart, to organize the field trip, and ten students in the 2002 cohort were enrolled in her undergraduate course, Religion and Black Culture, which was cross- listed in religion, African American studies, and comparative literature.
Of the thirty-five students in the 2002 sample, there were twenty- three women (65.7 percent) and twelve men (34.3 percent). There were two freshmen (5.7 percent), seven sophomores (20 percent), fourteen juniors (40 percent), and twelve seniors (34.3 percent). Students reported their ethnicity as follows: fourteen African American (40 percent), twelve white (34.4 percent), three Asian American/ Pacific Islander (8.6 percent), two multiracial (5.7 percent), one other (2.9 percent), and three not reported (8.6 percent). A total of twenty-three academic majors, including one undeclared, and nine double majors were reported. There were five anthropology majors and thirty non-majors. Thirteen academic minors, including three in anthropology and one double minor, were reported.
When the first field trip was being planned in fall 2001 for spring 2002, I made an effort to organize the trip to be five days over spring break. As planned, activities included going to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and the Charles Pinckney site in Charleston. In 2002, my colleague Dianne Stewart and I were awarded a University Teaching Fund grant to help defray expenses. However, although students enrolled in both courses expressed enthusiasm about the field trip, many had already committed to spring break travel for other courses, student organizations, or personal vacation plans. Even with partial funding, the cost of a five-day trip became prohibitive for most students. For both field trips, we left the University’s campus on a Friday afternoon to travel by bus in 2002 with Dianne Stewart (and by van 2004) to the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. In 2002, Saturday and Sunday morning were spent on St. Helena Island. In 2004, we spent the morning exploring St. Helena Island and the afternoon exploring Hilton Head Island before returning to St. Helena Islands for dinner. For both field trips, key cultural experiences included lodging at the Penn Center, site of the Penn School, which was established in 1862 by abolitionists as part of the Port Royal Experiment. The Penn School, which sits on the site of the Penn Center, was one of the first schools in the United States for freed blacks and is now the major research center for Gullah culture. Activities included visiting the York W. Bailey Museum at the Penn Center; eating local Gullah cuisine at the Penn Center and local restaurant Gullah Grub; participating in sweetgrass basket weaving and indigo dying demonstrations; storytelling and traditional Gullah music performances by the Hallelujah Singers, an international renowned group of Gullah performers; and participating in worship at St. Helena Island’s Brick Baptist Church, a historic church built in 1855 by enslaved Africans for white plantation owners. In 2004, to illustrate the impact of cultural change in the region, we visited the Bluffton Oyster Company in Beaufort. Opened in the early 1900s, it is the oldest continuously operating (and one of only two remaing) oyster shucking facilities in South Carolina.
In 2002, we kept a more rigid schedule, much of which was determined through the schedule of activities at the Penn Center; in 2004 I decided to follow a less structured timetable, to great success. The seeds for change came from an unplanned excursion by the students the second night of the 2002 trip. I mistakenly thought that students would be exhausted from traveling late into the night Friday evening, only to get up to begin exploring the island by 9 a.m. Saturday. What was reported by many students as one of the highlights of the trip emerged in the hours I had not planned. The students’ search to simply have fun landed the group at a local bowling alley where students freely heard the lilt of Gullah Creole spoken by locals who quickly befriended them. This happenstance opened the door for locals to tells stories about how and where to find the island’s oldest residents who were familiar with the meetings of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on St. Helena Island during the height of the civil rights movement, and about the passing (or not passing) of many of the traditions students had read about in course materials.
In the interest of developing a reciprocal relationship with Gullah-Geechee natives in coastal South Carolina, I also worked to incorporate a service-learning component into the trip. However, there were not any activities planned for the time of our visit and there was little we could do on our own with any sustainability during one visit. However, students who have participated in these trips report that they subsequently supported Gullah- Geechee cultural awareness activities in the Atlanta area, and at least four have reported to me that they have returned to the region with their families to educate them about the significance of the area’s cultural resources.
Measuring Field Trip Effectiveness
Data were drawn from participant observation supplemented by field notes, photography, student discussion, and assignments and reflective essays completed by students enrolled in the course. I included a description of the field trip in the course atlas, the college method for disseminating course information to the campus community, in the semester prior to the field trip. For both course offerings, on the first day of the semester I described the plans for the field trip and told students that although the experience would likely give them additional insights into course materials, I could not require them to participate. In both years, more students initially expressed an interest in participating than the actual number of students who went on the trip.
In 2002, I also described to students my plans to document the effectiveness of the field trip as a pedagogical strategy. I explained that their participation was voluntary. At that point, an undergraduate research assistant distributed a research description summary and consent forms to the students. Students selected a fourdigit identification number and recorded this number on all written instruments. All students enrolled in the course agreed to participate in the study, and the research assistant administered four surveys with open- and closed-ended questions to the student participants: (1) a baseline instrument at the beginning of the semester; (2) a pretest instrument the week prior to the field trip; (3) a posttest instrument on return from the field trip; and (4) a second posttest on completion of the course. The instruments included open- and closed-ended questions in the form of open-ended comments, multiple choice, ranking, internal scale questions, and ordinal scale questions. Questions assessed students’ knowledge about Gullah culture, prior learning experiences, perceptions about learning experiences, and recommendations for future Gullah field trip experiences. Students who did not go on the field trip also completed these instruments. An undergraduate and a graduate research assistant analyzed all data from these instruments. Further, all students who went on the trip wrote a five- to six- page reflective essay about their learning experience on return from the trip. In an effort to instruct students in the critical linkages between social science and policy, all students enrolled in 2004 were required to write responses to the questions posed during the winter 2004 national public comment period by the NPS’s Congressionally mandated Low Country Gullah-Geechee Special Resource Study to identify and evaluate the role of the NPS in preserving and interpreting Gullah-Geechee culture.
Because the course required students to develop a breadth and depth of knowledge about Gullah-Geechee culture (in addition to broader core concepts in linguistic anthropology), students in both offerings of the course completed two assignments in preparation for the trip: a collaborative small group oral presentation and an individually authored one- to two-page encyclopedia entry on a major aspect of Gullah culture. The aspects included environment, history, population, technology, economic organization, social organization, political organization, ideology, aesthetics, communication, and cultural change. Each student was required to become an “expert” in one or more these areas. Students complied all entries into a class encyclopedia on Gullah-Geechee culture, and once on the field trip, these guides became instrumental in helping students bridge their knowledge between topics.
At the beginning of the fall 2002 semester, 40 percent (n = 10) students reported having some familiarity with the Gullah Sea Islands or Gullah-Geechee culture. Of these ten students, four students reported having visited Hilton Head Island as a tourist; three students recalled having heard about the culture from viewing the Nickelodeon cartoon series, Gullah Gullah Island (Schram 1994); one student was of Gullah heritage but knew little about her Gullah ancestry; and one student reported having some familiarity with Gullah culture as a result of having a caretaker of Gullah heritage as a child. None of the students reported an understanding of any association of a distinct cultural heritage with the region. Survey questions that assessed student knowledge indicate that 100 percent of students were successful in defining the four major interpretations of Gullah culture by the pretest; this finding was consistent throughout the assessments. Students were asked to report their perceptions about prior and current learning experiences with course lectures, course readings, guest scholar lectures, viewing films, student discussions with another class, Blackboard, and a field trip. The baseline instrument indicated that in previous courses completed by the students, course lectures were reported as the most effective teaching strategies, followed by course readings and films. Blackboard was reported to be the least used and least effective method. This pattern was mirrored in the posttest instruments for this course.
The assessments indicated that the field trip was an effective teaching pedagogy, with 13 of the 15 (86.67 percent) students who went on the field trip rating the experience as very or extremely effective (n = 10). One student rated the trip effective and one did not respond. Although students recommended a longer period of time for the trip, most students did not recommend holding the trip during spring break unless there was some vacation time allotted. Most students also thought it would be acceptable to require students enrolled in the class to participate in the trip.
In reporting discrepancies between expectations for the field trip and actual experiences, with the exception of one student, all of the students reported not having any expectations. One student reported expecting to “enter a commerce area where” there would be “lots of interaction with locals to learn local customs and traditions from locals.” Most students reported having been surprised by the “amount of isolation.”
The assessments were adequate in measuring students’ perceptions about specific teaching strategies (e.g., lectures, readings, film) in prior courses, as well as in “Language and Culture.” The assessment measures were less adequate in measuring students’ perceptions about the impact of the relationship between various teaching pedagogies, especially course assignments as pedagogies and the experience of the field trip. Even though closed-ended questions did not partition and adequately measure what specific aspects of course instruction leading up to the field trip were most effective, student responses to open-ended questions addressed the impact of course experiences on the field trip. They focused too much on documenting what students learned specific to the course about Gullah culture. For example, I am unable to report how students ranked course readings, viewing films, or completing the encyclopedia entry and oral presentation as effective strategies for preparing them for the field trip.
According to data reported in openended questions about the field trip, the encyclopedia entry and oral presentation unintentionally emerged as the central learning experience for several students. Responses to open-ended questions indicated that applying the expertise developed through preparation of the encyclopedia entry and oral presentation revealed to them how much they had learned once they were in the Gullah region and able to apply their new knowledge.
The field trip presented a few challenges. Moving a group of people around with different interests in a limited amount of time sometimes became difficult because students would sometimes wander off, and we lost time looking for them. The tendency to wander diminished over the course of the trip with the increase of social pressure from disgruntled students tired of waiting. A few students expressed great disappointment when they helped a local basket weaver out to her car following the basket weaving demonstration. After helping the artist load her belongings into an SUV, students returned. Despite the basket weaver’s extensive knowledge and expertise, she was suddenly seen as inauthentic because of the SUV. I was struck by the height of their discontentment. A productive discussion about assumptions and anthropology’s association with the “exotic” ensued. We explored their expectations: she would be seen as more authentic if she used a less sophisticated mode of transportation. Some students read extensively in preparation and it became apparent that many people we encountered typically interacted with tourists who did not have as much formal knowledge about Gullah culture. There were a few awkward moments when students asked our hosts questions about histories of religious and political movements and the hosts were unable to respond and seemed embarrassed by not knowing.
Despite these challenges, on completion of the field trip, class discussion, posttest instruments, and reflection papers indicated the following.
* All students, including those who initially reported having some knowledge of Gullah-Geechee, reported an increase in their breadth and depth of knowledge about Gullah as a region, group of people, culture, and Creole language.
* The field trip enabled students to concretize and think critically about the interface of human lives and abstract concepts associated with the blocked access to resources, privileges, and power associated with complex societies. As stated by a sophomore who had not yet declared her major, “Before this trip I saw development as something good-that things were growing. The gates and ‘private property’ signs are everywhere. To read about the impact of development and tourism is one thing, but to see that the African Americans who owned this land have been pushed back from the outside of the island and can’t even see the water because of all the property that white people now own lets me see development as oppression.”
* Evoking the effectiveness of Dewey’s (1997) notion of a continuum of experiences, the field trip significantly extended ideas conveyed in course lectures and readings. Drawing on observations of the region’s marshlands, traffic jams resulting from bridge construction connecting the mainland and islands, and signs of a preserved St. Helena Island in contrast with highly developed Hilton Head Island, students reported coming away from the experience with a more comprehensive understanding of the environmental and ecological aspects of the region, as well as how tourism and development have affected the Gullah environment and contribute to local, regional, and national debates about cultural change and preservation. They reported that the trip afforded lessons that were more “accessible” and “believable” as a result of their firsthand experience.
* Perceptions about the region shifted from perceiving it as a site for leisure, as a “place where my family vacations and plays golf and tennis,” to a region with a distinct cultural history and identity at risk, primarily as a consequence of the expanding leisure economy.
* The links between having firsthand encounters with many of the ideas and experiences described in the course readings (e.g., descriptions of the threat of environmental pollution from traffic brought on by building bridges, and then getting stuck in bridge construction traffic for close to two hours; reading about Gullah- Geechee culture’s emphasis on youth and then observing the emphasis on youth in the worship service at Brick Baptist Church) added “authenticity” and “realness” to the readings and the course. A junior anthropology major described the importance of “going ‘into the field’ as not merely an exercise, but a collection of important activities” that “not only dispels myths that might have formed as a result of other people’s filtered works, but allows the culture to show how it is changing itself.”
Even though the primary goal of the immersion field trip was to afford firsthand exposure to a focal point in the course curriculum, the Gullah-Geechee region and community, data gathered from students enrolled in the class indicate that students drew heavily on course readings in methodology and their experiences as student ethnographers in their local Emory and Atlanta communities to imagine the legitimacy of their lives as potential researchers in the Gullah-Geechee community, or another community in which they had few resources or relationships and did not know the local language. Students reported that:
* The process of visiting a place where they were unfamiliar with the community and the location increased students’ awareness of the challenges, dilemmas, and responsibilities of the ethnographer. Although students completed a series of exercises that resulted in a miniethnography of a local Atlanta community, they described a harsher, more realistic reality of entering a potential study context with limited knowledge, resources, relationships, and language skills. As one junior anthropology major stated, “I see the houses and I see the cars, but how do I find the people? And, once I find them, how can I be sure that they will even talk with me?”
* They developed a better understanding of the significance of locating culture within an emic, or insider’s, perspective. Students realized that a trip to a bowling alley during peak times and local fish frys were the collective communal contexts in which they were more readily able to enter into more authentic local cultural worlds than in more structured settings. * A discussion of the identity and role of the researcher is fundamental to the practice of ethnography. These field trips prompted students, regardless of their backgrounds, to consider how their individual identities and dispositions- non-Gullah-Geechee community members, gender, ethnicity, regional, social class, sexual preference, personality traits (e.g., shy, aggressive, dominant)- might potentially assist or deter their ability to build relationships and rapport that are so critical to conducting qualitative research of human social and cultural life.
* The field trip experience instilled a greater sense of respect for study participants. Students were working with study participants in local Atlanta communities as a requirement for completing the mini-ethnography for the course. In the context of the field trip to St. Helena Island and Hilton Head Island, students reported being forced to think about taking their access to participants and communities for granted and think more critically about the vulnerability of and ethical responsibilities to study participants.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Findings indicate that the field trip enriched students’ learning experiences with practical, experiential learning that connected classroom experiences with firsthand experiences outside the classroom. Intellectually, these experiences contributed directly to how students (1) increase their knowledge and develop an appreciation for a cultural region, group, way or life, and Creole language, with which most knew little about before enrolling in the course; (2) concretize abstract core concepts in cultural and linguistic anthropology; (3) develop their skills in reflective observation and ability to substantiate general claims with specific evidence and examples; and (4) reach a better understanding through firsthand knowledge of the interface of theory, practice, and policy.
Similar to Serena Nanda’s (2000) findings, the trip also increased awareness and created opportunities for students to share their knowledge about a significant regional and national cultural site with their families and friends. In the weeks following the 2004 trip, local Gullah spokesperson, activist, author, and queen of the Gullah-Geechee nation, Marquetta Goodwine, known as Queen Quet, came to Atlanta to promote awareness about Gullah-Geechee culture. A group from the class took the initiative to organize a group of students, including students who were not enrolled in the course, to go to Queen Quet’s talk and support activities that increased awareness about Gullah culture. As Nanda found, the field trip helped to foster collegial relationships between students. Further, as other scholars have noted, field trips diminish the status hierarchy between students and college faculty that is characteristic of most university classrooms (Scarce 1997). As an instructor, spending the majority of three consecutive days with my students traveling by bus or van and sharing accommodations and meals allowed me to become more familiar them as individuals, and I gained greater insight into their strengths, skills, and creativity not revealed in the contexts of class meetings and office hours.
This field trip experience (1) fostered student-centered learning and was a more effective teaching tool than readings or video or audio recordings; (2) built community among departments, faculty, students and connected institutions to local and regional communities; and (3) built relationships across the region, from Emory to members of the Beaufort and the Gullah-Geechee community, the Penn Center, and the NPS. These relationships have contributed to increased awareness of Gullah-Geechee culture within the university and greater Atlanta through university sponsorship and support of Gullah artists performing on Emory’s campus. Further, increased awareness has contributed to undergraduate and graduate students seeking to more deeply understand Gullah-Geechee culture through formal research partnerships.
I close with the following recommendations for the implementation of immersion field trips.
1. Build relationships and work with community members at the site of the field trip destination for input in coordinating resources and activities. Community members can also contribute to student preparation for the field experience. Work with community members to develop a plan for reciprocity, including, incorporating a service-learning project into the field trip.
2. Instruction and course materials should reflect a continuum (Dewey 1997) that layers learning experiences that reflect multiple sources of information different learning strategies, and a range of course materials, such as readings and film, lectures, guest lecturers, field exercises, and field trips, into the learning experience.
3. Allow ample time for planning. Planning includes relationship building, planning the trip, fundraising, and arranging the logistics of obtaining permission for students to participate in an off-campus activity.
4. Partner with a colleague in a complimentary discipline when planning and implementing major field trips. Doing so builds community across disciplines and reveals insights about students’ mastery of course information and their ability to convey it to other peers. Partnering also creates a shared burden for planning and coordinating the logistics of speakers, joint film screenings, and trips. If possible, schedule both courses to meet at the same time. This will ease conflicts in finding times to schedule joint film screenings, interdisciplinary class discussions, trip planning meetings, or assessments.
5. Incorporate structure and freedom when planning activities for students. Structured activities can provide more formalized contexts for learning. In the contexts of offering this class and field trip twice, I found that the field trip, like fieldwork, should be subject to spontaneity and free exploration. Identify local public gathering sites at the field trip destination, such as the aforementioned bowling alleys and fish frys, as they potentially afford the richest, most natural and authentic contexts for interaction between locals as insiders and student visitors as outsiders.
6. Aim to plan a trip for four to six days. The two weekend field trips described in this article were fast-paced and tightly scheduled. The benefits of a weekend field trip of three days outweigh the option of no field trip and reliance solely on classroom instruction. Whereas both members and institutions in the Gullah- Geechee community and the students benefited from the exposure afforded by the three-day field trip, a longer trip would have provided more opportunities for implementing a service- learning project and interacting with local Gullah-Geechee community members. During both offerings, I tried to schedule the class during spring break, but I was not successful in either semester because of the students’ scheduling, budgetary limitations, and scheduling of local activities in the Gullah region.
7. Incorporate multiple methods to document students’ perceived effectiveness of instructional pedagogies. Paper and pencil baseline, pretest, and posttest instruments afford an accessible inventory of data. However, free response exercises and reflective essays afford far richer insight into the learning experiences that had the most significant impact on students, intellectually and personally. Further, these kinds of exercises reveal the extent to which students describe making connections between course materials and their experiences.
8. Undergraduate institutions should support programs that emphasize active learning, as they are integral to university policy that aims to incorporate breadth in curriculum and instructional pedagogy. Funding is a primary need for support of teaching and research on teaching that will enhance students’ abilities in becoming better scientists of human social life and better citizens. Institutional support can also contribute to building, maintaining, and extending relationships, and more specifically partnerships between departments, academic institutions, local and regional communities, and industry.
The field trip presents a viable option for achieving four goals: (1) introducing students to the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological underpinnings that directly inform anthropology, sociology, and education and that have relevance to other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities; (2) increasing awareness of about a specific topic, in this case, Gullah-Geechee culture; (3) creating links between the university and other communities, universities, research centers, and institutions in southeastern United States; and (4) helping students to understand the continuum between theory, practice, and policy.
The field trip as a pedagogical strategy has implications for nearly all fields in their commitment to train students to awaken their senses and become actively engaged in the practice of specific disciplines. Field trips can be active learning experiences where students learn about specific sites, learn how to concretize abstract concepts such as culture, power, or inequality through example, or learn to think more critically about the process of research. Ultimately, in the mission of preparing students for work and life and in a richly diverse world, the qualitative approaches of anthropology, sociology, and education have the potential to create increasingly reflexive and effective citizens, whether students’ career paths lead them to anthropology, education, law, sociology, public health, medicine, business, or social work. The field trip is an appropriate and effective vehicle for increasing student knowledge about a cultural group and illuminating core theoretical and methodological disciplinary constructs.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I acknowledge the gracious assistance, guidance, and recommendations of The Penn Center staff, Marquetta Goodwine, Ervena Faulkner, members of the Gullah-Geechee community, Brian Joyner, Craig Stinson, Michael Coggeshall, Dianne Stewart, Michael Allen, and research assistants Melissa Burroughs and Jade Caines. I acknowledge the generous financial support of Emory University’s University Teaching Fund, the department of anthropology, department of African American studies, program in linguistics, Center for Teaching and Curriculum, the Faculty Science Council, the South Carolina Arts Commission Folklife and Traditional Arts Program, and the National Park Service.
IN PLANNING THE FIELD TRIP COMPONENT OF THE COURSE, I WAS COMMITTED TO CONSULTING WITH GULLAH-GEECHEE KEY CULTURAL EXPERTS FOR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COURSE READINGS AND FILMS AND FIELD TRIP LOGISTICS AND ACTIVITIES. ALSO, I WAS GUIDED BY DEWEY’S UNDERSTANDING THAT EFFECTIVE EDUCATION IS FACILITATED THROUGH BUILDING A CONTINUUM.
Cantor, Jeffrey. 1997. Experiential learning in higher education: Linking classroom and community. Washington, DC: Graduate School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University.
Coggeshall, John M. 2003. Symbols of derision and division: Plantations in the New South. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago.
Colby, Anne, Thomas Ehrlich, Elizabeth Beaumont, and Jason Stephens. 2003. Educating citizens: Preparing america’s undergraduates for lives of moral and civic responsibility. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Conroy, Pat. 1972. The water is wide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Crane, Julia G., and Michael V. Angrosino. 1984. Field projects in anthropology: A student handbook. 2nd ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.
Daughters of the Dust. 1992. Dir. Julie Dash. New York, NY: Kino.
Dewey, John. 1997. Experience and education. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Family Across the Sea. 1991. Dir. Tim Carrier. New York: Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.
Faulkenberry, Lisa, J. Michael Coggeshall, Kenneth Backman, and Sheila Backman. 2000. A culture of servitude: The impact of tourism and development on South Carolina’s coast. Human Organization 59:86- 95.
Freire, Paolo. 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.
_____. 1998. Education for critical consciousness. In The Paolo Freire reader, ed. A. M. Araujo Freire and D. Macedo, 80-110. New York: Continuum.
Garner, Lesley C., and Michael Gallo. 2005. Field trips and their effect on student achievement and attitudes: A comparison of physical versus virtual field trips to the Indian River Lagoon. Journal of College Science Teaching 34 (5): 14-17.
Gershwin, George. 1935. Porgy and Bess. New York: Random House.
Goodwine, Marquetta L., and The Clarity Press Gullah Project, eds. 1998. The legacy of Ibo Landing: Gullah roots of African American culture. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press.
Harris, Joel Chandler. 1881. Uncle Remus and his legends of the old Plantation. London: David Bogue.
Herskovits, Melville J. 1941. The myth of the Negro past. New York: Harper and Row.
Heyward, DuBose. 1925. Porgy. New York: George H. Doran.
Hutchings, Pat, and Allen Wutzdorff. 1988. Knowing and doing through experience. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Jackson, Antoinette T. 2001. Heritage-tourism and the historical present Africans at Snee Farm Plantation. Southern Anthropologist 28 (1): 12-27.
Jackson, Lee Anna. 2006. The employee field trip: What executive retreats can do for your team. Black Enterprise March: 61.
Jones-Jackson, Patricia. 1987. When roots die: Endangered traditions on the Sea Islands. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Keeton, Morris. 1976. Experiential learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kendall, Jane C. 1990. Combining service and learning: An introduction. In Combining service and learning: A resource book for community and public service, ed. Kendall, 1-36. Raleigh, NC: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education.
Kendrick, J. Richard. 1996. Outcomes of service learning in an introduction to sociology course. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 3:72-81.
Kolb, David A. 1984. Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Krulfeld, Ruth. 2001. Field trips and student involvement: Hands- on learning components. In Strategies in teaching anthropology, ed. Patricia C. Rice and David W. McCurdy, 141-44. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Laabs, Jennifer J. 1993. Field trips to better understanding of products. Personnel Journal 72 (11): 18.
The Language You Cry In: Story of a Mende Song. 1998. Dir. Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano. San Francisco: California Newsreel.
Levine, Harold G., Ronald Gallimore, Thomas S. Weisner, and Jim L. Turner. 1980. Teaching participant-observation research methods: A skills-building approach. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 11 (1): 38-54.
McCurdy, David W. 1997. The ethnographic approach to teaching cultural anthropology. In The teaching of anthropology: Problems, issues and decisions, ed. Conrad Phillip Kottak, Jane J. White, Richard H. Furlow, and Patricia C. Rice, 62-69. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
Montgomery, Michael, ed. 1994. The crucible of carolina: Essays in the development of Gullah language and culture. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Nanda, Serena. 2000. Museum visits in cultural anthropology courses. In Strategies in teaching anthropology ed. Patricia C. Rice and David W. McCurdy, 117-21. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
National Park Service. 2005. Low country Gullah culture special resource study and final environmental impact statement. http:// www.nps.gov/sero/planning/gg_srs/gg_res.htm (accessed September 4, 2008).
Pollitzer, William S. 1999. The Gullah people and their African heritage. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
Runkel, Philip, Roger Harrison, and Margaret Runkel, eds. 1972. The changing college classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Scarce, Rik. 1997. Field trips as short-term experiential education. Teaching Sociology 25 (3): 219-26.
Schram, Mallory. 1994. Gullah Gullah Island. New York: Nickelodeon.
Soto, Lourdes Diaz. 2001. Childhood memories. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 32 (1): 104-12.
Spradley, James P., and David W. McCurdy. 1988. The cultural experience: Research in complex society. Chicago: SRA.
Turner, Lorenzo. 1949. Africanisms in the Gullah dialect. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Twining, Mary A., and Keith E. Baird, eds. 1991. Sea Island roots: African presence in the Carolinas and Georgia. Trenton, NJ: African World Press.
Warren, Karen. 1998. Educating students for social justice in service learning. Journal of Experiential Education 21 (3): 134-39.
Wigginton, Eliot. 1985. Sometimes a shining moment: The foxfire experience. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.
Wink, Joan. 2000. Critical pedagogy: Notes from the real world. 2nd edition. New York: Addison-Wesley Longman.
Wright, Mary C. 2000. Getting more out of less: The benefits of short-term experiential learning in undergraduate sociology courses. Teaching Sociology 28 (2): 116-26.
Tracy R. Rone, a linguistic and cultural anthropologist, is a research associate at the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. Her research interests include anthropological approaches to issues in urban education, narrative, and out-of- school time programs.
Copyright (c) 2008 Heldref Publications
Copyright Heldref Publications Fall 2008
(c) 2008 College Teaching. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.