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  • AutorenbildBarbara Grabher

How to teach the eventhropocene?

Aktualisiert: 1. Aug. 2022

The title of this second blog post is rather odd; but the end of the summer semester invites to think and reflect about the didactical approaches relevant to my teaching in/ on/ with the notion of the eventhropocene.

In this reflective practice, I concentrate on the module that I taught in the past semester in the MA programme for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at University of Graz, Austria. Given the task to design my own module, I was eager to develop not only the particular contents but as well an appropriate didactical approach. Hereby, research, creativity and game-based learning became central components in my teaching:

Research-led teaching

Even though frequently forgotten, but scholars are not only employed for the education of students. Quite the contrary! Research is what drives the scholarly system and therefore as well the academic teaching. However, based on my experience and conversation with colleagues, synergies of research and teaching are rare.

Due to the possibility to design the contents of the MA module autonomously and strong encouragements by colleagues to focus on my research in the teaching preparations, I experienced for the very first time how much potential lies in research-led teaching. On the one hand, being able to bring in my own research (fresh from the field - if you want to say so!) allowed me to use the classroom as a sound-board to spell out thoughts and idea as developing in my current publications. On the other hand, the students took this invitation to my “thought experiment” – called research – and advanced in in so many different directions (for further details see – to be published here soon).

Arts and craft-based teaching

As one might have read in my mini-bio, I work not only as a researcher in academic settings but as well as a consultant in the cultural sector. One of my frequent and favorite tasks, is the facilitation and moderation of events, workshops and trainings. Hereby, my interest lies in the creativity that the role of the facilitator holds.

In this module, I wanted to let my teaching be influenced by my non-academic didactical approaches and therefore played with crafts and creativity as part of teaching. An example is the collaging of postcards with expectations, impressions and associations with the term of the Anthropocene in the first session of the semester. In another session, creative writing practices were used in order to explore the linkages between the field of event studies and the thought figure of the Anthropocene. In order to reflect upon the inputs provided in the excursion, the follow-up session strongly focused on the art of story-telling.

As the students responded with great enthusiasm and eagerness to these creative practices, I asked them to present their final posters with a craft-based perspective. The so-called interactive element in their posters was interpreted in phenomenal ways. A few examples are provided in the pictures below:

The interactive feature was expressed in quizzes regarding representations of non-human animals, brainstorming exercises of metaphorical ingredients in the Anthropocene soup, as well as a degustation of salt and fresh water. It was an absolute impressive experience to see what doors of learning are being opened when drawing on arts and crafts in academic teaching.

Game-based learning

The final point of reflection connects with above-described creative practices in teaching, but expands the perspective further. In the module, I explored different elements of gamification in higher education didactics. While I am critical of the overused tactics of gamification in order to achieve learning goals, I explored a few elements of such learning tactics in the context of my module.

The above presented image is one element, where I employed string games in the moderation of a discussion. Drawing upon Donna Haraway’s conceptual consideration of the string figure, I asked students to connect their contributions in the discussion not only verbally but as well physical through the red thread as shown in the picture above. Through the haptic element of the string, all students were encouraged to contribute to the discussion. Additionally, the metaphorical red thread allowed to build continuous linkages between the outspoken positionalities, thoughts and experiences.

Another example of a game-based teaching method was used in the excursion to Bad Ischl - Salzkammergut (5.-6. May 2022). Rather than having a frontal introduction to the city’s developments by a tour guide or myself, I developed an urban Rallye. In pairs of two, the students were assigned a selected location in the city and asked to find out what the relevance of this place was in respect to the city’s development by exploring the location in situ, asking bypassers as well as doing online research. After around 30 minutes, students were asked to present their search result in the explored location. Hereby, traces of the eventhropocene was identified in this game-like scenario.

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